Absence of lawyer grounds trial of seven suspects over MP’s killing

By: VINCENT AGOYA

The trial of seven suspects held for the murder of Kabete MP George Muchai hit a snag at the High Court on Monday when one of their lawyers failed to turn up in court.

The prosecution was ready to proceed, with five witnesses who included a newspaper vendor, two women allegedly carjacked and were on board a getaway vehicle as the MP and his aides were gunned down, a taxi driver and an anonymous witness said to have been in contact with the suspects, lined up.

However, the court declined to take their evidence in the absence of the lawyer, and instead adjourned the matter.

It is mandatory that murder suspects are tried in the presence of their lawyers.

The sixth suspect, Ms Margaret Njeri’s State -appointed lawyer has never made an appearance in the case since his appointment, the trial court heard.

This has raised a new dimension in the case over the legality of the murder plea as the suspect answered to the charge in his absence.

On Monday, parties agreed to return to court on December 2 for a mention and to find out whether a substitute lawyer has been appointed to represent the suspect.

“We have no objection to the request for adjournment,” Prosecutor Catherine Mwaniki said.

She also asked the trial judge to record that she was ready with witnesses in court.

The suspects face two different capital offences before two courts in Nairobi, arising out of the killing of the trade unionist-cum-politician.

Eric Isabwa alias Chairman, Raphael Kimani alias Kim Butcheri, Mustapha Kimani alias Musto, Stephen Astiva alias Chokore, Jane Wanjiru alias Shiro, Margaret Njeri and Simon Wambugu have denied the four charges of murder at the High Court implicating them in the February 6 killing of the MP and his aides.

In the magistrate’s court, the suspects face ten counts of robbery with violence, in which they were alleged to have robbed different people on the same night they allegedly killed the MP.

Isabwa and Njeri faced two other charges of being in possession of a firearm and ammunition without a certificate, and for handling stolen property.

If found guilty, the suspects could be sentenced to hang “twice” since each of the two separate capital offences attracts the death penalty.

They have denied they murdered Mr Muchai, his two bodyguards Samuel Kimathi Kailikia and Samuel Lekakeny Matanta, and his driver Stephen Ituu Wambugu.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION