The Director of Public Prosecutions has opposed a bail application by four Administration Police officers accused of killing human rights lawyer Willie Kimani and two others in Machakos county four years ago.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Mutuku, said the high-profile murder trial has reached a crucial stage and releasing the accused persons would compromise the case.
So far, he told Justice Jessie Lessit at the High Court in Milimani Nairobi, the prosecution has presented 44 witnesses and one is remaining.
While opposing the officers' third application to be freed on bail terms, Mr Mutuku said lives of the accused persons may be endangered and therefore they are safe in prison.
He explained that when the murder incident occurred in June 2016 there were protests and a police facility in Mavoko was burnt by an angry mob.
Mr Mutuku said tension is still in the area and the lives of accused persons will be at risk if their bail application is granted.
"If they (members of the public) hear that the accused persons have been released, they may react again," said Mr Mutuku.
He said the fact that most of the witnesses who were on protection have testified makes the situation worse because they may have been released from Witness Protection by now.
Mr Mutuku said the prosecution has tendered volumes of evidence to link the accused persons to the murder, hence chances of absconding are still very high.
"The witnesses draw comfort in the knowledge that the accused persons are in custody," said Mr Mutuku, adding that the families of the victims are still traumatized. He described the case as serious.
On their part, the accused persons told the court that the circumstances which previously forced the court to deny them bond have since changed, since all protected witnesses have testified.
The four, Senior Sergeant Fredrick Leliman, Sergeant Leonard Mwangi, Constable Silvia Wanjiku and Corporal Stephen Chebulet, said the evidence at the scene of the crime has already been secured, hence there are no compelling reasons to deny them.
They are charged alongside a police informer Peter Ngugi Kamau. They are accused of killing the human rights lawyer, his client Josephat Mwenda and driver Joseph Muiruri on June 23, 2016.
In their bail application, the accused urged the court to take into consideration that they have been in custody since the trial began in 2016 and only one prosecution witness is remaining.
If released, they said, they will neither interfere with the witnesses nor abscond trial. The court further heard that Corporal Cheburet is still serving as a police officer.
The court also heard that two of the accused persons had contracted Covid-19 while in prison and their lawyers have had difficulties meeting them since they were on quarantine.
Constable Wanjiku said she ought to be released since she recently underwent surgery at Kenyatta National Hospital. The court heard that so far she has not been linked to any offence.
But the prosecution opposed her arguments saying she was at Mavoko Police Station when the three deceased persons were arrested and detained before they disappeared. Mr Mutuku said that is proof that she is equally culpable.
On Covid-19 grounds, Mr Mutuku said the pandemic is everywhere and not just in prisons.
Justice Lesit adjourned the case after one of the defence lawyers, Cliff Ombeta, failed to show up in court.
Lawyer James Mochere told the court that Mr Ombeta had informed him that he had been summoned by the High Court in Mombasa. Mr Mochere, who was holding brief for Mr Ombeta, said the Mombasa case involved a foreigner.
Justice Lessit appeared upset by the explanation saying it was in 'bad taste'.
"Tell Ombeta that we booked the hearing dates and that I will not entertain any adjustments. It is in bad taste," said the judge.
She directed that the trial of the case that started in July 2016 be adjourned to October 30.
The case was coming up for hearing of prosecution witness number 44, who is a police investigator.
The trial will resume on October 30, 2020.