Kenya: Haji Wants Suspects in Solai Dam Disaster Charged Afresh

22 September 2020

The state wants the nine suspects in the Solai dam tragedy case to be charged afresh after the High Court ordered their retrial.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP), through Mr Alexander Muteti, has applied to have the suspects who are facing manslaughter charges to take fresh pleas.

Naivasha High Court Judge Richard Mwongo had in April ordered the retrial of Patel dam owner Perry Mansukh, farm manager Vinoj Jaya Kumar and seven others who had been acquitted of 48 counts of manslaughter.

Mr Muteti, in his application, says the High Court quashed all the proceedings in the previous matter and that it is necessary that case starts afresh starting with the suspects taking new pleas.

"With the order of the High Court all proceedings ... stand quashed and no party can rely on the same in the new proceedings. We therefore urge the court to allow our application ... so that the retrial is conducted with strict provisions in the criminal procedure law," said Mr Muteti.

Suffer no prejudice

Appearing before resident magistrate Lyna Sarapai via Zoom, the prosecution argued that the suspects will suffer no prejudice because the court will not interfere with their bail terms.

His application was supported by the victims' lawyers Mr Wilfred Nderitu and Kelly Malenya appearing for the Kenya Human Rights Commission.

Mr Nderitu further sought to have the victims enjoined in the criminal case as interested parties and urged the court to hear their application on enjoinment on a priority basis.

The defence strongly opposed the application arguing that it will violate their right to a free and fair trial. Lawyer Boniface Masinde for Mr Mansukh told court that the new pleadings will prolong the case, thus denying them a right to expeditious trial and disposal of the matter.

The magistrate directed the DPP to present the application in written form and serve the parties before mention on October 28. The suspects were arraigned on 48 counts of manslaughter in relation to the tragedy in which 48 people were killed and hundreds others displaced when the Patel dam burst its banks and its waters swept across three villages on May 9, 2018.

The other suspects are Johnson Njuguna, Luka Kipyegen, Winnie Muthoni, Jacinta Were, Tomkin Odo Odhiambo, Willie Omondi and Lynette Cheruiyot.

Chief Magistrate Kennedy Bidali on February 3 acquitted the suspects citing "lack of willingness" from the ODPP. DPP Noordin Haji successfully challenged the ruling before the High Court, which ordered a fresh trial.

Justice Mwongo termed the lower court's decision defective and unjust, saying the interests of the victims were not considered.

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