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Homa Bay MCAs in Speaker assault case released on bond



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Seven Homa Bay members of county assembly (MCAs), who were charged with assaulting county Speaker Elizabeth Ayoo, have been released on bond.

They are Mr Evans Marieba, Mr Dan Were, Mr Paul Ongoro, Mr Walter Muok, Mr Philemon Onditi, Mr Peter Kaula and Mr Julius Gaya.

The MCAs were all handed a reprieve when Kisumu High Court Judge Justice Fred Ochieng overturned a ruling made by Resident Magistrate Rose Ndombi last Friday, detaining them at Kodiaga Prison for 14 days pending the hearing of their case.

In detaining the accused, Ms Ndombi said the police needed to collect more evidence and complete investigations.

The prosecutor, Mr Lazurus Sirtui, had told the court investigators were yet to collect crucial evidence from the Clerk of the Assembly.

He said that if released, the accused may interfere with the ongoing investigation given their positions in the County Assembly.

But after three nights in prison, Justice Ochieng released each of them on personal bonds of Sh250,000 with two sureties.

Defence lawyers led by Mr James Aggrey Mwamu, Homa Bay Town MP Mr Opondo Kaluma and his Ruaraka counterpart Mr Tom Kajwang argued that the leaders had a right to bail.

Mr Kaluma said the MCAs are state officers who hold leadership positions while others chair critical committees in the assembly and are therefore not a flight risk.

He told the court that the prosecution did not give compelling reasons to deny the accused bail.

“The right to bail is in the Constitution and cannot be limited unless the prosecution gives compelling reasons. Here, none exists,” said Mr Kaluma. 

But State Counsel Gloria Barasa said the investigating officer was concerned that witnesses were within the areas where the MCAs work. She also said more charges would be preferred against them.

“Earlier on, the statements issued were not sufficient to warrant more charges, but currently we are ready and will be adding malicious damage to property,” said Mrs Barasa.

But Mr Kajwang said acts of interference with witnesses must be demonstrated and must come out in the proceedings and in the ruling of the judge.

“All the offences which will come in the future must not be a basis to deny bail. Let prosecution help us take away politics from court,” Mr Kajwang.

The judge noted that anybody charged with assault is entitled to bail.

He also pointed out that as much as the accused should be trusted to behave responsibly because of their positions, those who are to testify in the case may be fearful because of their influence.

Justice Ochieng therefore said: “The accused shall not contact witnesses, discuss the case or anything associated with the case, with any of the prosecutor’s witness whose name will be provided.”

He added that this will status will remain throughout the case.

The judge also warned the accused against interfering in any way with the investigations.

“It is the responsibility of the accused to ensure compliance with the orders. Should they violate them, they will be arrested.”

The hearing was set for January 23.