Bernice Mbugua @BerniceMuhindi
High Court judge Jessie Lesiit yesterday rejected Migori Governor Okoth Obado’s bail plea and sent him back to remand for 11 more days.
This was a major blow to the governor, who had returned to the court after spending six days at the Industrial Area Remand Prison, hoping to be freed on bail.
Obado will remain behind bars until October 8 when the prosecution is expected to have completed its investigations.
But the governor will be in the good company of his aides Michael Oyamo and Caspal Obiero, who have been charged alongside him. The three will also know their fate on October 8.
Justice Lesiit rejected Obado’s bail plea, saying it could not be determined before witness statements and all the evidence is availed to all parties.
“That is the only way that this court can fully exercise its discretion applying the factors for consideration in determining whether or not any compelling reason exist to deny bail,” she said.
Justice Lesiit said the prosecution was yet to avail documentary evidence and witness statements it intends to use during trial and failure to provide them could not be interpreted to mean the prosecution had no case at all.
On the issue of the capital charge and right to bail, the judge noted that with investigations being underway, it was evident other persons had been brought before the court and charged.
The judge, however, said that the court recognised the importance of presumption of innocence until proof of guilt. She said bail and bond policy guidelines stipulate that an accused person should be released on bail unless there are compelling reasons and an opposition to granting of bail is not a violation of right.
Justice Lesiit further noted that it was the prosecution that had the burden of proving the presence of compelling reasons to deny bail and that is why the victim is given an opportunity to be heard before bail is considered.
The judge dismissed lawyer Cliff Ombeta’s argument that Obado’s continued detention was “killing his spirit and dignity”. She said there could not be equal treatment before the law based on the status or lack of it of an accused person.
“Dignity has to do with the treatment of an accused not his status. The binding constitutional principle of equal treatment before the law abides for the accused person,” she said.
The judge further downplayed Ombeta’s argument that the governor has only political influence, noting that when a person is elected as a leader he or she commands a lot of power within the confines of particular area they represent and also outside.
She, however, said there were measures the court could apply to ensure such power does not affect the case by imposing strict bail terms. The judge said the case kept on changing as more and more suspects were arraigned and charged with the same offence. She dismissed the argument that there was a security threat.
“The only material before court is an affidavit by Clement which contains averments that security may be destabilised. Court is aware of security situation in Migori which informed arraignment of accused in Nairobi but I find it difficult to draw a conclusion/conclusive finding at this stage,” she ruled.
The prosecution led by Jacob Ondari and Alexander Muteti had claimed that Sharon Otieno’s family was being threatened.
It further opposed Obado’s release on bail claiming there was a high likelihood the governor could interfere with investigations.