What you need to know:
- The magistrate directed that the police, in consultation with court assistants, facilitate easy access to the courtroom by members of the public.
- The trial hit a snag on Tuesday morning after dozens of police officers were deployed in Nakuru city and around the court premises.
Allegations of police harassment and intimidation on Tuesday forced the adjournment of the trial of former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga at the Nakuru Law Courts.
The trial, which entered the second day, will now resume on Wednesday.
Mr Njenga is facing seven counts relating to his membership and involvement in organized criminal activities.
Principal Magistrate Kipkurui Kibelion, in his ruling at 2pm on Tuesday, adjourned the hearing and ordered that the case continues on Wednesday at 9am.
The magistrate further directed that the police, in consultation with court assistants, facilitate easy access to the courtroom by members of the public and also to maintain law and order during the process.
Furthermore, he directed the court to mount a screen in an open space within the court precincts to enable the members of the public to following the proceedings from outside the courtroom.
The magistrate, in his ruling, found the police at fault for blocking members of the public from accessing the court premises, which he said is an impediment to the judiciary's function of administering justice.
“The matter shall proceed in a public manner and members of the public allowed in a number that will fit in the courtroom. Considering the interest the case has attracted, the court administration to make available space to mount a screen to enable all members of the public to follow the proceedings,” the magistrate ruled, adding that no accused person shall be denied accessing to the courtroom.
After the testimony by the first prosecution witness on Monday, the hearing was scheduled to proceed on Tuesday with at least six witnesses lined up to testify.
However, the trial hit a snag on Tuesday morning after dozens of police officers were deployed in Nakuru city and around the court premises.
Unlike on Monday, officers erected roadblocks on routes leading to the court entrance, each manned by more than five officers.
All vehicles entering court premises were thoroughly inspected before being allowed entry, while members of the public had to produce their identity cards.
Following the heightened security measures, hundreds of Mr Njenga’s supporters who had turned up at the court were locked outside.
Some judicial officers and members of the media were also required to produce their job cards before being allowed in.
At the same time, some of Mr Njenga's lawyers and supporters were also denied access to the courtroom, prompting protests from the defence team.
Appearing before court on Tuesday morning, the defense team, led by Mr Njiru Ndegwa, refused to proceed with the hearing until these issue were resolved.
They termed the denial of Mr Njenga’s supporters access to the courtroom as an attempt by the State to block access to justice.
“Why are we being locked out of the court premises? Preventing the members of the public from accessing the court premises is an attempt to prevent access to justice which is a constitutional right,” said Mr Njiru.
The lawyer applied to be allowed to stage a protest to demand that all gates be opened to the public.
He also applied to have the County Police Commander to be summoned to explain the heavy deployment of police officers in the court premises.
Lawyer Harun Ndubi told the court that four of the accused persons had been denied access together with his clerk and that their whereabouts remain unknown.
He said the trial should not continue until the accused persons were presented in court. In addition, he also asked to have the hearing done in a bigger courtroom that will accommodate more people.
However, the prosecution, through State Counsel Wycliff Omwenga, requested the court to consider the capacity of the courtroom while giving its directions.
Mr Njenga was arrested alongside 11 others in his home at Wanyororo in Bahati during a police raid on May 18.
He was charged on May 19 with seven counts relating to the criminal gang and its activities before the Nakuru court.
The suspects however denied the charges and were freed on a Sh100, 000 bond.