The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has placed some of the people that will testify against Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko under witness protection. This was revealed in court Tuesday when the anti-corruption watchdog said the High Court has allowed the agency to have some witnesses in the case testify under protection due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The case, in which he is charged with others over loss of Sh357 million, was up for mention today to confirm compliance by EACC to supply the defence with documents. EACC says the witnesses are under the Witness Protection Agency, a State body established under the Witness Protection Act to safeguard persons with important information and who are facing a potential risk or intimidation because of their co-operation.
The court was told that they will use pseudo names in their statements and will give evidence in a closed-door session while ''hiding'' in a box. Sonko's team protested the decision, saying it was not aware of the order.
His lawyers accused EACC and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of failing to make a full disclosure of documentary evidence as required in principles of fair trial.
Sonko's team also protested the State's non-compliance with court orders directing that the accused be supplied with witness statements. Defence lawyers Cecil Miller and George Kithi said there had been no compliance with the January 27, 2020 court order to the DPP and EACC to furnish Sonko and other suspects with evidence in readiness for the pre-trial on February 26.
At the same time, Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which the DPP and EACC have frustrated fast-tracking of graft cases by failing to adhere to timelines set by the court to make evidence available to suspects. Mr Ogoti said there has been a public outcry that the court has been delaying disposal of graft cases but that it is not their fault.
Sonko's lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui asked the court to take serious action against officers of the two investigating agencies. In her defence, State prosecutor Ms Nanjala explained that they misunderstood the court order but added that they have handed over two boxes of documents to Mr Miller.
She said it is only one suspect who has not received evidence, adding that they have not supplied witness statements because some of the accused will be placed under witness protection. The magistrate, while referring to Article 50 (2) of the Constitution, said disclosure must always take place when a suspect is being charged so that he or she can prepare their defence.
This article was originally published on The Daily Nation.