Kenyan policemen handed heavy sentences for killing of human rights lawyer


Former Kenyan police officers Fredrick Leliman who was given a death penalty and Stephen Chebulet, who was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment, sit in the dock after they were found guilty of killing human rights lawyer, Willie Kimani, his client and their driver at Milimani Law courts in Nairobi, Kenya, February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan court on Friday handed decades-long prison sentences to three police officers and their civilian informant for the 2016 murder of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani.

Kimani, his client Josephat Mwendwa and their driver Joseph Muiruri were killed shortly after filing a complaint of police brutality alleging that Mwendwa had been shot and injured by police.

Their bodies were later recovered from a river outside the capital Nairobi.

The case triggered outrage in Kenya, where police face frequent allegations of brutality and extrajudicial killings but are almost never charged.

The four defendants were convicted of murder last year.

The lead defendant, Frederick Leliman, was sentenced to death by the court. However, Kenya has not executed anyone since 1987, with death sentences usually commuted to life in prison.

The other two police officers, Stephen Cheburet and Sylvia Wanjiku, and their civilian informant, Peter Ngugi, were given prison sentences ranging from 20 to 30 years.

The judge, Jessie Lessit, described the killing as a "well planned and executed" murder.

A police spokesperson said the police would issue a statement later.

The police say they take action against any officer accused of brutality, while the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, a body set up to probe cases of police brutality, investigates such cases and recommends them for prosecution.

At the time of his death, Kimani was working for International Justice Mission, a global legal rights group that helps investigate and document police killings and brutality.

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Bhargav Acharya; Editing by Aaron Ross and Toby Chopra)

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