18 September 2007

Kenya: Judge Says Widow's Suit an Abuse of Court Process

Nairobi — A High Court judge yesterday dismissed a suit filed against him by a widow over alleged mishandling of a case against her husband's killers.

Mr Justice Jacktone Boma Ojwang in his ruling declared the suit against him as a gross abuse of court process.

The judge's ruling arose out of an application filed by Ms Rachael Wanjiku seeking to stop him from dealing with the case any more.

Ms Wanjiku wanted Justice Ojwang stopped from handling the matter because she believes he is biased and therefore would not give an impartial decision.

Also sought by the widow is an order to declare that the manner of conducting the murder case against Nahashon Ngugi Gatarwa, Joseph Ngugi Muiruri, Stephen Muiruri and John Kibora Mwaura contravenes her constitutional rights.

The four are accused of killing Ms Wanjiku's husband, Martin Kiragu Ndung'u, in Thika on April 25, 2005.

All witnesses have testified in the case and Mr Justice Ojwang' is to give a ruling on whether or not the four have a case to answer on September 18. The trial started on March 12, 2007.

The widow, in her petition to the High Court, says there is imminent threat by Mr Justice Ojwang' to deny her a fair hearing.

Mr Justice Ojwang', according to the widow, on a number of occasions conducted the murder trial after official working hours.

The judge, the court was told, suddenly started cross-examining and grilling prosecution witnesses whose evidence was not favourable to the accused, notwithstanding the presence of the defence counsel supposed to do that.

She further accuses the judge of adjourning other cases listed for hearing before him in favour of this particular murder case.

But yesterday the Attorney-General defended the judge saying the suit by the widow is frivolous.

The state law office said it jealously guards its powers to prosecute and was not about to allow a witness to usurp it.

The AG said the widow who testified in the criminal case as prosecution witness has no authority to file the complaint against the judge because she is not a party to the criminal case in question.

And above all, the AG said, judicial officers are not liable to legal suits over action he or she did in the process of discharging their duty.

Lawyers Ojwang Agina and Francis Njanja representing the accused persons in the murder trial said the application by the widow is meant to annoy the judge and have him disqualify himself from hearing the matter.

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