Even as Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has announced wide-ranging changes in the Judiciary to deal with the backlog of cases in various courts, little progress has been made to hear the shocking case of an arms cache unearthed in Narok three years ago.
Described as the country’s largest consignment of ammunition and guns in civilian hands to be seized by police, the criminal trial of businessman Munir Ishmael, his wife Nahid Tabasum, former AP chief armourer John Maritim and civilians John Wandeto and Dominic Mufumu is yet to begin three years after the suspects were arraigned in court.
And the vetting of magistrates by the Sharad Rao team is likely to slow down the court process. A total of 109 principal magistrates are to be vetted by March 28, and thereafter more than 200 others of the lower courts will face the panel, chairman of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board Rao announced last week.
“This is a clear case of justice delayed is justice denied,” said Mr Cliff Ombeta, the suspects’ lawyer.
The case has been handled by at least four chief magistrates and two High Court judges for plea taking and bail application respectively.
Former magistrates – Ms Esther Maina and Ms Grace Macharia – who previously handled the case are now High Court judges, while Mr Gilbert Mutembei is now a High Court Registrar.
The case came up for mention last December before the new Nairobi Chief Magistrate Kiarie Waweru Kiarie who fixed another mention date for directions later next month.
Mr Ishmael, who was described by Justice Mohammed Warsame as the central player in the case, is out on a Sh1 million cash bail and two sureties of Sh3 million. His wife Tabasum was given a cash bail of Sh1 million, Mr Maritim deposited two sureties of Sh500,000 while Mr Wandeto and Mr Mufumu are out on Sh200,000 sureties each.
The suspects face two separate charges of being in possession of government property after they were found with 31,211 rounds of ammunition in a garage and another 100,000 seized in the same compound. They have denied the charges.
On February 1, 2010, police found 28,783 bullets of 9mm calibre, 353 of 7.6 mm, 1,552 of .22 mm, 500 of .38mm and 25 of .28mm calibre in two containers branded with the logo and colours of a local milk factory.
The detectives had earlier recovered six guns and 100,000 rounds of ammunition at a petrol station within Narok town.
Retired Police Commissioner Matthew Iteere, who supervised the opening of the consignment and the counting of the ammunition, said some of it came from the Czech Republic while others were from the Eldoret bullet factory.
And delivering a ruling to bail the suspects two years ago, Justice Warsame used the occasion to warn security agencies against sleeping on the job, saying the security arm was poorly run and had jeopardised the security of the country.
“There is a serious indictment on the Department of Internal Security,” said Justice Warsame. He said security agents attached to the department were required to act honestly to restore public confidence and avert the continuous public outcry about insecurity.