31 August 1999

Kenya: Show of force over Kenya's 'most wanted' criminal

Nairobi — The man police describe as Kenya's most wanted criminal was taken to court yesterday - with a guard of 300 armed policemen. Uniformed and plainclothes police carrying assault rifles, pistols and tear gas canisters patrolled court precincts and nearby streets.

Others took up strategic points inside the Kiambu resident magistrate's court, guns at the ready, as Edward Maina Shimoli was taken before the bench.

With him in the dock were three alleged accomplices, two of them women.

The four denied the seven counts preferred against them before Resident Magistrate John G. King'ori.

The arrival of the suspects, brought to Kiambu court in two police patrol cars at 10.55 am, attracted a large crowd.

The courtroom had to be cleared before the four were brought in. Once inside, only policemen, advocates and the Press were allowed in.

Then Shimoli, wearing a black checked shirt and torn grey trousers, and the other three defendants were taken in and the charges read out to them.

The other three suspects, arrested two weeks ago at a village in Kiambu district, are: Isaac Waithaka Njoroge, Caroline Wawira Mwai and Grace Njoki Njuguna.

The charges alleged in the first count that the accused on August 16 at Kinoo village, Kiambu District, without firearm certificates were found in possession of one AK-47 assault rifle serial number 071822.

In the second count they were accused of possessing a Taurus pistol serial number E45464; the third count was of possessing another pistol, make unknown, with serial number .9413.

The fourth count was that on the same day in the same village, they illegally had 11 rounds of 7.63 calibre ammunition; the fifth that they were in possession of another 11 rounds of 9mm ammunition; and in the sixth count, of possessing six rounds of shotgun ammunition.

The seventh and last count was that all four at the same place were found in possession of five rolls of cannabis sativa.

The prosecution, led by Inspector Peter Ngata, opposed bail for all four.

Insp Ngata said that Shimoli had a number of serious cases facing him from which he had in the past absconded. He was also a condemned convict in one of the cases although the charges he was facing yesterday were bailable.

"The firearms mentioned in this case are under investigations and the police want to fully establish whether the firearms could have been used in other offences. We thus apply that both the first accused, Shimoli, and the second accused, Njoroge, be remanded at the Kamiti maximum security prison.

"As regards the third and fourth accused, they are required to appear in court for robberies comitted in Nairobi and we would like to have them remanded in custody," Insp Ngata said.

In response, lawyer M. Thuo, appearing for the third accused, Caroline Mwai, said the reasons advanced by the state in opposing bail related only to the first two accused.

"The statement that the third accused is wanted in Nairobi to answer to unrelated cases are not enough to deny her bail," he said.

"Here she is being charged with an offence which is bailable and the court does not know whether she will be charged in Nairobi with an offence which is not bailable," Mr. Thuo added.

In reply, Insp Ngata said that all the prosecution was asking was that the third and fourth accused be remanded in custody to await being charged in a Nairobi court. There was a high chance they would jump bail, he claimed.

Insp Ngata added: "There are ballistic tests to be done on the recovered firearms and ammunition but the accused can renew their bail applications on a later date."

Magistrate King'ori, refusing bail, said the court had noted the offences were bailable but because of the seriousness of the submissions concerning the two principal suspects, it would be unsafe to grant them bail at the moment."

He added: "I also consider it not appropriate to release the other two on bail. They can however renew their bail applications, hoping the police will have no objection in having them released on bail when the case comes up for mention."

The court directed that the case be mentioned on September 13 and be heard on October 7.

The court corridors were cleared as the four were then led out to the two waiting patrol cars and, escorted by heavily armed police, driven off at high speed towards Kamiti prison, followed by five unmarked police cars.

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