The High Court has ordered six police officers to pay Sh4 million to a lawyer they had arrested and detained illegally. The officers will also pay Sh3.8 million to 19 other people they had arrested and locked in a cell at the Ongata Rongai police station. Each of the 19 complainants is to get Sh200,000. The officers had argued that the petitioners were idle and disorderly. But Judge Reuben Nyakundi yesterday ordered that no state money should be used to pay the cash. This means that each officer will have to part with Sh1.3 million. He found officers guilty of violating the rights of arrested persons and right for representation.
“I find that the petitioners are entitled to general exemplary damages in addition to a declaration on the violation of their constitutional rights,” Nyakundi said.
The case was filed on December 16, 2016. The court heard that on the evening of June 4, 2016, Mohamed Feisal, John Ngure and 17 other petitioners were unlawfully arrested around Tumaini Supermarket, Ongata Rongai, while engaging in normal business.
According to the petition, three officers — Teresiah Wanjue, Simon Namshuruhi and Zedekiah Nyangoye — bundled the 19 into a police vehicle and warned them against making any phone calls.
Feisal and Ngure told the court that they defied the orders and called lawyer Steven Nzaku to come to their aid. Upon his arrival, Nzaku explained his mission but was instead met by threats of arrest and was chased away by one of the officers.
The petitioners said they were held in the vehicle until 12.20am on June 5, 2016, when they were taken to Ongata Rongai police station, booked and placed in custody without being informed of their offences.
The 19 said Nzaku followed the police vehicle to the station. He was again met with hostility.
Nzaku was arrested by the then OCS Henry Kandie, his deputy David Ndiema, officers Eliud Njagi and Diana Kirui for causing a disturbance.
The rest later learnt that they had been booked for the offence of being idle and disorderly but were released unconditionally on June 6, 2016, with no charges preferred against them.
Nzaku, in his application, said he was released on Sh5,000 bail and it was at that point that he got to know through his lawyer the reasons for his arrest.
The officers had said that about 20 minutes after midnight on June 5, 2016, Nzaku walked into the police station drunk and demanded the release of two of his clients, whom he claimed were among the 19 people who had been arrested.
The lawyer was abusive and when efforts to calm him down did not bear fruit, the deputy OCS directed that he be arrested, they told the court.
Photo credits: MONICAH MWANGI