Kenya court rules police killing of Pakistani journalist unlawful

by Admin
Kenya court rules police killing of Pakistani journalist unlawful

A Kenyan court Monday found police acted unlawfully over the 2022 killing of a Pakistani journalist following a complaint by his widow, who welcomed finally getting “justice” in the long-running case.

Arshad Sharif, a strident critic of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment and supporter of former premier Imran Khan, was shot in the head when Kenyan police opened fire on his car in October two years ago.

His widow Javeria Siddique and two journalist groups in Kenya filed a complaint last year against top police and legal officials over the “arbitrary and unlawful killing” of Sharif and the respondents’ “consequent failure to investigate.”

On Monday, the High Court in Kajiado, a town south of Nairobi, rejected a police claim that the killing was a case of mistaken identity and that officers’ believed they were firing on a stolen vehicle involved in an abduction.

“The use of lethal force against Sharif by shooting him in the head was unlawful and unconstitutional,” Judge Stella Mutuku ruled.

“Authorities violated Sharif’s fundamental right to life.”

Siddique, who followed the trial from Islamabad in Pakistan, expressed gratitude over the court’s decision.

“I cannot fully express my emotions, and I cannot bring Arshad back. However, I have set a precedent that those who kill a journalist cannot escape justice,” the 36-year-old told AFP.

“Today, hired killers are being punished.”

The judge also awarded 10 million shillings ($78,000) in compensation but granted the state’s application to suspend the compensation decision for 30 days to allow it to file an appeal.

‘Great precedent’

Siddique’s lawyer Ochiel Dudley described the decision as a “great precedent for police accountability.”

He told AFP the judge found “Kenya violated Arshad Sharif’s right to life, dignity, and freedom from torture, cruel, and degrading treatment.”

In her ruling, Mutuku ordered Kenya’s legal and police authorities to conclude their investigations into the case.

These respondents must “take responsible actions, including to punish and prosecute police officers who killed Arshad Sharif, if found culpable,” she said.

Sharif fled Pakistan in August 2022, days after interviewing a senior opposition politician who said junior officers in Pakistan’s military should disobey orders that went against “the will of the majority.”

FILE – Top Pakistani news anchor Arshad Sharif speaks during an event on ‘Regime Change Conspiracy and Pakistan’s Destabilisation’ in Islamabad, June 22, 2022.

The country has been ruled by the military for several decades of its 75-year history and criticism of the security establishment has long been seen as a red line.

Pakistan is ranked 152 out of 180 countries in a press freedom index compiled by Reporters without Borders, with journalists facing censorship and intimidation.

“In my country today, there is no press freedom whatsoever,” said Siddique, adding that she was “not optimistic” about receiving justice in Pakistan.

But she added: “I finally feel that some form of justice has been achieved.”

Police in Kenya are often accused by rights groups of using excessive force and carrying out unlawful killings.

Recently, criticism has flared again following the deaths of 39 protesters demonstrating against controversial proposed tax hikes in Kenya.

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