Sonko finally freed on bail after dramatic court session

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Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is attended to by a medic at Kiambu Law Courts yesterday. He was released on 300,000 cash bail. [George Njunge, Standard]

“Is he fainting? Is he fainting?“

The question rent in the air at Kahawa Law Courts as Magistrate Diana Mochache surged from her seat and quickly gazed at former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko as he slumped in the dock.

Sonko’s lawyers pleaded with the court to allow doctors to treat him first before hearing an application to hold him for 30 days to allow for investigation of terror claims against him.

“The governor is not fit to have the application heard today, we urge you to adjourn the hearing. It would be better that the governor goes through the procedure, there is no hurry,” lawyer John Khaminwa pleaded.

“The subject was brought to court in an ambulance. They may look healthy but may walk and die.”

Despite the plea, the State asserted that the former governor be held by anti-terror police and escorted to either Nairobi Hospital or Kenyatta National Hospital for a checkup.

”We will argue the custodial application when he is in good shape,” Senior Assistant DPP Victor Owiti submitted.

It was a second plea to have him go to hospital instead of police custody. It was eventually granted.

When Sonko arrived in Kiambu courtroom earlier, he had Elastoplast on his arms and a patient tag. He was brought in an AAR ambulance and needed a nurse around him in the clock. During the hearing session, he had to be taken by officers to the washrooms.

After a ruling to release him on bail, his lawyers pleaded with the court to have him taken to hospital instead of Kahawa court where he was waiting for yet another ruling on whether he would be held for terror investigations.

The State had urged Kiambu Magistrate Stella Atambo not to release him on bail, claiming that he had escaped from Shimo la Tewa Prison from a hospital bed. 

In the end, the magistrate released him on Sh300,000 cash bail and declined to reduce it to Sh100,000.
She said the cases against him were minor, attracting at least five years.

The magistrate also dismissed the State’s argument that Sonko was a flight risk and that he would interfere with witnesses. Atambo was of the view that the cases against the former governor could be settled out of court.

After a back and forth between Sonko’s lawyers and the prosecution, he opted to go to Kahawa instead of hospital. Before the magistrate read her ruling, his lawyers Khaminwa, Cliff Ombeta and Dunstan Omari had their ears to anyone who bothered to push the hour with them.

Dr Khaminwa, a bubbly man, would not leave his dismay untold on how police cells were torturous to anyone who passed through them. He retorted in a tête-a-tête that it was better to have ‘githeri’ (a mixture of maize and beans) at home than fish and meat in a police cell.

His client had been in the morning rushed to Nairobi Hospital and an AAR nurse kept a hawk eye on him inside the court, ready with a stethoscope and heart and pressure monitoring machine in case of any medical emergency.

Sleeping on the floor

“Our journalists should tell of the bad state. Gigiri is a very old station and he was sleeping on the floor. We treat our people as half human,” said Khaminwa, comparing how Sonko, now a terror suspect, was treated against the experience of his other client, Paul Gicheru, in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Sonko’s entry to the court premises was as dramatic as his presence inside the courtroom. With anti-terror police entourage trailing him, armed with assault rifles, he briskly walked in but with a white t-shirt labelled ‘never give up’.

Sonko must have been a person of very close interest to the State such that leader of Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU), the same person who was keeping two Iranian terror convicts Sayed Nasrollah Ebrahim and Abdolhosein Gholi in check, had his eyes on him.

The former governor had a chat with his lawyers then collapsed his head onto the dock’s top. The AAR nurse kept on placing the machine’s peg on his index finger, and scribbled something on an A4 booklet.

While she was closely monitoring Sonko, his lawyers were busy exchanging with Senior Assistant DPP Alexander Muteti on why the court should free him on medical grounds. At this time, Muteti was holding onto a letter from his family doctor, Esther Nekesa, that he needed a heart check.

He also had another one from Primecare heart clinic signed by six doctors, showing that Sonko was not well.

While Muteti was asserting that the State could handle Sonko’s illness, Omari, one of his lawyers, quickly fired a reminder that former Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo died while lawyers were pleading with Milimani Court judge John Onyiego for his release from prison to seek medical attention.

“Senior, senior, I tell you, I was in Gakuo’s case and he died when Justice Onyiego declined to issue him bail while he was sick,” Omari told Muteti.

At 2pm, Sonko was whisked away in a convoy of police vehicles, sirens blaring, just as he had been brought in.

Charges

In the matter, Sonko was charged that on May 25, 2019 at Buru Buru Phase Four in Kamukunji, jointly with others not before court, forcibly and violently entered into land number LR Nairobi block 78/8, the property of Landmark International Properties.

He was also charged with assaulting Alex Kioko, thereby occasioning him actual bodily harm, on the same date and place.

Sonko faced three more counts of assault on Musyoki Kavunda ,Joel Kinja and John Mungai on the same date, place and time.

In granting the bail, the magistrate noted that the prosecution had said Sonko had a warrant of arrest issued by a Mombasa court with a criminal case pending wherein the accused failed to attend court.

But she also noted that prosecution did not demonstrate exactly how Sonko was a flight risk.

And neither could they demonstrate that he was threat to public order, peace and security.

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