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Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif murder: Is state using ODPP in cover-up?

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Details from the judgement have hinted at a possible cover-up of the perpetrators by the office of the DPP. 

Is the Kenyan government using the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to protect the police officers involved in the murder of Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif?

Details from the judgement, in the case where the widow of the late journalist sued the Kenyan government for compensation for the unconstitutional killing of her husband, have hinted at a possible cover-up of the perpetrators by the office of the DPP.

But the office of the DPP Renson Ingonga, through his assistant Gikui Gichuhi, defended itself against the accusations by Arshad's widow, Javeria Siddique, the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), and the Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA), terming them "misconceived and premature."

During the hearing, Gichuhi told the court in an affidavit that the petitioners had failed to demonstrate with particularity how the DPP had infringed on their rights and sought dismissal of the petition with costs to the DPP.

She said the petitioners had not placed any material evidence of laxity in the office of the DPP.

Javeria, the KUJ, and the KCA had sued Kenya's Attorney General Justine Muturi, the DPP, Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), and the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) for the unlawful killing of Arshad and their failure to prosecute those behind his murder.

Arshad was shot dead in Tinga township in Kajiando County on the night of October 23, 2022, by two officers from the General Service Unit (GSU). He was travelling as a passenger in a motor vehicle registration number KDG 200M, a Toyota Landcruiser V8.

At the time of the shooting, police are said to have been trailing motor vehicle registration number KDJ 700F, a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van stolen from Pangani, an upmarket area approximately four kilometres east of Nairobi city. IG Koome later admitted that the investigative journalist was fatally injured by his officers in a case of "mistaken identity."

Sharif had spent three months living in Kenya after fleeing his home country due to concerns for his personal safety.

Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome addresses the media in the past. (Photo: NPS)Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome addresses the media in the past. (Photo: NPS)

The case before Justice Stella Mutuku claimed that although Koome expressed regret for "the unfortunate incident" and promised appropriate action by competent authorities at the time, no action was taken for one year.

Justice Mutuku noted that the petitioners (Siddique, KUJ, and the KCA) claimed that since those statements were issued, no investigations have been carried out.

"And that if any investigations have commenced, they have not been prompt, independent, impartial, effective, and accountable; that no prosecution of those responsible for the shooting has commenced; that the family of the deceased has not obtained justice through investigations and prosecution of those responsible for the killing of the deceased," stated the petitioner's lawyers.

The petition was filed on October 19, 2023, a year after Sharif's murder, and no one had been or has been charged with the murder before the petitioners sued or after the suit was filed.

During the hearing of the matter, the IPOA absolved itself by telling the court that it investigated the case and submitted the file to the DPP, whom it blamed for the delay or failure to prosecute the perpetrators.

"The IPOA stated in its response to the petition that it conducted thorough investigations and forwarded the file to the DPP and that it will give the status of the update once it gets directions from the DPP," stated Justice Mutuku in her judgement.

But Gichuhi said the DPP independently reviewed the file submitted by the IPOA and flagged areas where the investigative agency needed to cover before any conclusive decision was made.

She said the DPP called for a meeting with the IPOA on January 24, 2023, to address the areas of concern.

"Following that meeting, the DPP held a meeting with officials from the Pakistan High Commission on January 26, 2023, following a request for mutual legal assistance by the Inspector General of Police in Islamabad to facilitate an effective investigation and to update them on the progress of the investigations," stated Gichuhi.

She said the file has been submitted twice to the DPP between March and May 2023 for further review.

She added, "Due to the complexity of the issues raised in the file, the DPP was of the view that there was a need for a joint comprehensive analysis of the investigation file before any decision was made and that it was before it was done that the DPP became aware of this petition."

The late Pakistani news anchor Arshad Sharif. (Photo: Courtesy)

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