Court frees Nyeri blogger at centre of political storm, terms arrest un-procedural

Mathira MP Peter Weru shares a piece of cake with Martha Wanjiru Miano moments after she was set free by a Nyeri court on March 2, 2016. She was arrested on Monday for allegedly abusing Governor Nderitu Gachagua's brother on Facebook. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Nyeri Resident Magistrate John Aringo ordered the immediate release of Ms Martha Wanjiru Miano, setting aside his earlier orders to have her detained for seven days to allow the police to complete their investigations.
  • Ms Miano was arrested on Monday at the Karatina CDF offices, where she works for Mathira MP Peter Weru, for allegedly publishing messages said to be abusive to Mr Rigathi Gachagua and county government officials
  • Ms Amwatok, the investigating officer, told the court that the case is political because after her arrest the people she asked to follow her were politicians.

A 25-year-old blogger accused of insulting Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua’s brother on Facebook was on Wednesday afternoon set free after a court established that her arrest was un-procedural.

Nyeri Resident Magistrate John Aringo ordered the immediate release of Ms Martha Wanjiru Miano, setting aside his earlier orders to have her detained for seven days to allow the police to complete their investigations.

Ms Miano was arrested on Monday at the Karatina CDF offices, where she works for Mathira MP Peter Weru, for allegedly publishing messages said to be abusive to Mr Rigathi Gachagua and county government officials

“I have noted some erroneous issues in the application made by the investigating officer; therefore, the suspect is set free,” said Mr Aringo.

Mr Aringo, however, said that the prosecution can continue with their investigations and charge her with insulting charges after establishing their grounds to support the case.

ESTABLISH CLAIMS

Lawyers Irungu Kangata (also the Kiharu MP), Muthui Kimani and Gichuhi Mwangi, who were representing Ms Miano, poked holes in the prosecution’s application, saying that police arrested her before they could establish the allegations made by the complainant.

“The investigating officer arrested my client before receiving a report from the cybercrime unit which would have disclosed if the suspect has committed any crime as alleged,” said Mr Kangata.

The lawyers also complained that when Ms Miano was taken to court on Monday, the investigating officer bypassed the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and went to the magistrate, who issued the orders for her detention for seven days.

Mr Kangatu said the application made by investigating officer Maximilla Amwatok was erroneous and had also been signed by the magistrate, which is against the law, raising legal concerns.

“The orders to detain her should be set aside because they were issued under unclear circumstances,” Mr Kangatu had argued earlier.

He said the charges that Ms Miano was likely to face are “mishandling of a communication gadget”, which is a misdemeanour and does not warrant a suspect to be detained for police to complete investigations.

Mr Muthui and Mr Mwangi said such orders are sought for capital offences.

CASE POLITICAL

The prosecution on Wednesday morning, lead by State counsel Rebecca Mayeku, had opposed her release, saying the assertions she had made on her Facebook page are serious and are likely to interfere with national cohesion.

Ms Amwatok, the investigating officer, told the court that the case is political because after her arrest the people she asked to follow her were politicians.

Ms Amwatok said she had only recorded Mr Rigathi Gachagua's statement and was yet to take statements from two other witnesses, among them someone "who is abroad and who is expected to be back to Nyeri in two weeks’ time".

She, however, denied that the witness who had travelled abroad is Governor Nderitu Gachagua.

After the court ruling, Mathira residents, accompanied by MP Peter Weru, Wambugu Nyamu, who is said to be eyeing the Senate seat, and Mr Kuira wa Kabiru, who wants to be Mathira Ward rep, held celebrations outside the Nyeri Law Courts and marched through Nyeri town.

Mr Weru condemned the arrest, saying it was political and pure intimidation.

“If anyone thinks they will take us back to the Moi era, it will not happen here in Nyeri because we will not allow it,” said Mr Weru.

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