Lawyers representing Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) staff arrested in connection with tax evasion on Monday protested at the request to have them detained for three weeks.
The Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) had asked the court to detain the suspects for 21 days, but Senior Resident Magistrate Paul Mayova, who listened to pleas from both sides, ruled that the suspects remain in custody for two weeks.
The DCI told the court that investigations into the matter are complex, hence require more time.
Through State lawyer Duncan Ondimu, DCI said they need more time to conduct a detailed analysis on 178 mobile phone numbers and M-Pesa statements, forensic examination on the said phones and laptops seized.
Mr Ondimu said 48 officials are yet to be arrested despite investigations starting four months ago.
However, lawyer Dunstan Omari argued that the suspects have already been interdicted, yet the law requires them to be removed from their various positions after being charged and taking a plea.
“Judicial independence cannot be compromised by the DCI … we urge the court to stand firmly. Let’s not bring back the old days of detention without trial,” said Mr Omari.
He added: “I am basing my arguments in principles of good governance and the fact that the accused persons are public servants, this is an issue of successive politics and not a criminal matter.
He disclosed that the suspects are being investigated on offenses of money laundering, abuse of office, neglect of duty among others besides tax evasion.
However, at least ten lawyers who were present in court to represent 38 suspects protested against that request. They termed the allegations levelled against them as politically instigated.
He termed their interdiction and plea to have them detained further as a serious violation of their right to freedom.
Lawyer Julie Soweto suggested to the court to have the suspects held in a hotel since there was a higher likelihood that only a few of them would later be charged.
“Criminal liability is on individual basis, to detain all these because of people they have no direct relation or connection is unreasonable, its time such massive arrests are done appropriately to avoid abuse of the legal process,” said Ms Soweto.
Other defense lawyers protested against the detention of some suspects at the DCI training College.
They told court that the suspects were all junior staff whose access into KRA systems is through passwords hence could not interfere with investigations or witnesses.
They also protested against the Friday arrests.
They further claimed that the issue of pre-trial detention is slowly to creeping back into the system.
Lawyers John Swaka and Prof Tom Ojienda told court that there was no compelling reason to detain the suspects further if investigations had been ongoing for the past four months.
“Court is obligated to jealously guard freedoms of all suspects and the judicial institutions from the DCI,” the defense lawyers said.
Last Friday, 70 KRA staff were arrested but only 38 appeared before Senior Resident Magistrate Paul Mayova.