Echesa freed amid uproar over probe on Matungu killings

Monday May 20 2019

Rashid Echesa

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei (L) visits former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa at Nandi Hills Police Station on May 19, 2019, following his arrest over alleged involvement in the killings in Matungu, Kakamega County. PHOTO | CORRESPONDENT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NATION TEAM
By NATION TEAM
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Former Sports Cabinet secretary Rashid Echesa was last evening released from custody after police failed to link him with the killings in Matungu. Mr Echesa, who was arrested on Friday, was freed shortly before 7pm.

Nandi Hills police boss David Nyabuto said after two days of interrogation, they were unable to find evidence linking the former CS with the killings in Matungu.

RELEASE

“He is, however, expected to appear before the Directorate of Criminal Investigations in Kakamega for further questioning,” Mr Nyabuto told the Nation. Meanwhile in Kisumu, supporters of Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala stormed Kisumu Central police station demanding his unconditional release.

The supporters wanted the decision taken after word went round that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Noordin Haji, had ordered for his release. They came to the station at around 5pm carrying food, which they had prepared for the legislator.

They became impatient when, by 7.30pm, Mr Malala had not been released. They crowded the entrance shouting, chanting and dancing demanding he be freed. The officers were forced to push back both the supporters and journalists who were at the reception.

DISPERSE CROWD

More anti-riot police officers arrived shortly after to disperse the crowd, which was building up. According to Charles Malala, the senator’s lawyer, the DPP had ordered that he be released.

“We are only waiting for the officer who was handling the case to come to the station and process the senator’s release,” said Mr Malala.

Unconfirmed reports, however, indicated the police were reluctant to free him following directives from interior CS Mr Fred Matiang’i. We could however not independently verify the claim. By 8.10pm, the Senator had not been released but the supporters had calmed down.

Earlier, police had indicated that they planned to submit an application to hold Mr Echesa and Mr Malala longer to conclude investigations. Sources said they had already forwarded part of the investigation findings to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

ARRAIGNED

On Sunday, detectives arrested four more people linked to the killings. The four young men, who hail from Ejinja village in Matungu, had fled to a hideout in Kotur, Teso South sub-county. Western regional police commander Rashid Yakub said the suspects will also be arraigned today.

While Mr Yakub was non-committal on the charges they were facing, Mr Nyamboki said they were preparing a litany of charges related to the operations of the murderous criminal gang that has killed more than 20 people and injured many more others in the past one month.

Politicians from Nyanza and Western waded into the saga, cautioning detectives against detention “without tangible evidence”. Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, Senate minority leader James Orengo and senators Ochillo Ayacko (Migori), Moses Kajwang’ (Homa Bay) and Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo asked the courts to be cautious while handling such cases.

Mr Orengo, Mr Ayacko and Mr Kajwang’ termed the trend by detectives to first detain suspects then look for evidence later as a display of impunity. Defending Mr Malala, Mr Orengo said nothing concrete had emerged from his detention, which he said was “malicious and being executed because other leaders from the other side of the political divide are being held”.

PERSECUTION

“We hope this is not persecution of Mr Malala because of his demand for a statement by the Interior ministry on the Matungu killings,” said Mr Orengo. Governor Oparanya said investigators should be fair and impartial.

Police turned away some relatives and colleagues of the seized politicians who had gone to visit them at various police stations. Shirere ward representative David Ikunza said he had been prevented from visiting Mr Oduori, who is being held at Kakamega Police Station.

In Nandi, a section of leaders led by senator Samson Cherargei visited Mr Echesa at the Nandi Hills police station. Mr Cherargei and some members of the county assembly termed the arrest of Mr Echesa as political harassment due to the former CS’s support for Deputy President William Ruto.

The leaders petitioned Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Inspector-General of police Hillary Mutyambai to hasten investigations. Last week, Dr Matiang’i blamed politicians for instigating the attacks.

Reporting by Benson Amadala, Rushdie Oudia, Tom Matoke, Barnabas Bii and Shaban Makokha.