A second lawyer has abandoned ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and joined the defence team of Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura.
In what appears to be a determined effort to plumb Mr Ocampo’s thinking ahead of the confirmation hearings for the ICC Kenya case in two months, Mr Muthaura’s lead defence counsel, Karim Khan, has hired Shyamala Alagendra, a Malaysian national who formerly worked in the International Criminal Court’s prosecution office.
The first former ICC lawyer to cross over from the prosecution was Essa Faal, a Gambian national who joined Mr Muthaura’s team last week.
In a communication with the Sunday Nation yesterday, Ms Alagendra said she was returning to her roots: criminal defence litigation.
“I was invited by Mr (Karim) Khan, QC, and Mr (Essa) Faal to join them in the defence team of Mr Francis Muthaura,” Ms Alagendra, whose father Tan Sri Alagendra served as Commissioner of Police in Malaysia, told the Sunday Nation.
“My mother Puan Sri Saraswathy Devi is a barrister qualified in England and is one of the pioneer female criminal defence lawyers in Malaysia with over 50 years’ standing at the Bar,” she said.
Serious legal battle
The addition of the Malaysian advocate and solicitor to Mr Muthaura’s legal team sets the stage for a serious legal battle at The Hague with the combination of Ms Alagendra and Mr Faal as insiders who have joined Mr Khan and Ken Ogeto.
Mr Muthaura, the head of Kenya’s civil service, is charged together with five other Kenyans with crimes against humanity arising from the post-election violence of 2007-2008.
The others are Deputy Prime Minister and minister for Finance Uhuru Kenyatta, suspended Higher Education minister William Ruto, former Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey, former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang.
The six are alleged to bear the greatest responsibility for the violence in which more than 1,300 people died, and nearly 600,000 were displaced.
The suspects made their initial appearance before ICC judges in April and are set for confirmation hearings in September to determine whether they should stand trial for the crimes.
Yesterday, Mr Khan, Mr Muthaura’s lead defence counsel, sought to play down the move as an ordinary attempt to strengthen Mr Muthaura’s defence team ahead of the confirmation hearing.
“The two lawyers bring on board invaluable experience to the team that will definitely bolster our case so that we can ably fight off Mr Ocampo’s charges,” Mr Khan told the Sunday Nation.
When she received the invitation to join Mr Muthaura’s defence team, Ms Alagendra had returned to legal practice in Malaysia.
“In fact, since April this year Shyamala has been practising in her home in Malaysia,” Mr Khan said.
Ms Alagendra, who began practising law in Malaysia in 1998, was appointed prosecuting trial attorney in the Serious Crimes Unit in the special panels for serious crimes in East Timor after defending a full spectrum of criminal cases in Malaysia. She served in that capacity between March 2001 and April 2005.
As a trial lawyer in the Office of The Prosecutor of the ICC, she was assigned to work on the Darfur situation that was responsible for handling cases against senior officials of the Government of Sudan between August 2008 and April this year.
Ms Alagendra, like Mr Faal, appeared together with Mr Ocampo as one of the key prosecution lawyers in the Darfur case in which Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir is charged with crimes against humanity.
In May she was engaged briefly to assist the lead defence counsel in representing Fatmir Limaj, the former Kosovo minister for Transport and Communications, against allegations of war crimes charges before the Eulex War Crimes Court arising from post-referendum violence in the Balkan state