Bernice Mbugua @BerniceMuhindi
Migori Governor Okoth Obado tasted freedom at last after the High Court yesterday released him on bail, but with strident conditions in the murder case of his lover Sharon Otieno and her unborn baby.
The county chief, however, had to spend another night in the Industrial Area Remand Prison because a document presented by a guarantor was yet to be verified.
Justice Jessie Lesiit released Obado on Sh5 million cash bail and two sureties of similar amount each. However, his co-accused—personal assistant Michael Oyamo and Caspal Obiero, a clerk in Migori county—will remain in custody. The judge said there were compelling reasons not to grant them bail.
Justice Lesiit said she released Obado on bail because only circumstantial evidence will be used against him in the twin murders, which she said was not substantial to deny him bail.
On Obiero and Oyamo, the judge said: “Releasing them may send fear and anxiety to potential witnesses and therefore lead to intimidation which may adversely affect the case.”
She further noted that there was a high likelihood of the two absconding trial, which cannot be underrated.
“I also find their release is likely to disturb public peace and, therefore, public security especially bearing in mind the reaction of the public at the time of the arrest and also during investigations into this case,” ruled Justice Lesiit.
News of Obado’s release received mixed reactions in Migori. While his supporters broke into song and dance to celebrate his release, others condemned the ruling, wondering if justice had been done to the family of Sharon.
A resident identified as Joash Oluoch welcomed the ruling, saying continued incarceration of the governor had stalled development activities in the county. Yet others felt that Obado’s co-accused should also have been granted bail for the law is seen to treat all equally.
Obado was directed to deposit all his travel documents, including his Kenyan, East African and diplomatic passports to court. He was warned against causing an adjournment in the case and ordered to report once a month to the Deputy Registrar of the High Court.
Justice Lesiit further warned the governor against going anywhere within 20km of neighbouring Homa Bay county boundaries on all sides.
He must also not contact or intimidate, directly or by proxy, any witness in the case as per the witness statements and other documents that have been supplied by the prosecution.
Obado was also prohibited from intimidating family of the late Sharon and to refrain from mentioning or discussing the deceased or the case in any gatherings or political meetings, public or private. Lawyers representing Oyamo and Obiero said they would appeal the decision to deny their clients bail.
“Our application is founded on Article 49 of the Constitution and Article 48 which also give the accused person an unfettered right of justice, the Constitution must be read as a whole,” said Oyamo’s lawyer June Ashioya. Justice Lesiit gave them right of appeal.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Jacob Ondari told the court they have lined up 30 witnesses out of whom 24 have recorded their statements. The matter will be heard from May 6 to 17, 2019 with pre-trial conference scheduled for February 14.
The governor was charged last month with the murder of Sharon, a Rongo University student, who was seven months pregnant with Obado’s baby at the time she was killed. He has been in remand after the court previously denied him bail.
Justice Lesiit had held that it was only after the committal bundle was supplied could the court fully exercise its discretion and apply factors for consideration in determining whether or not a compelling reason exists to deny bail.
Obado made fresh application for bail on October 11, saying he suffers from a severe back problem dating back to 2013 and his condition has become worse since his remand. Lawyers Nicholas Ombija, Rogers Sagana and Cliff Ombeta represent him. Sharon and her unborn baby have since been buried in Magare in neighbouring Homa Bay.