Embakasi East MP Paul Ongili alias Babu Owino could face up to seven years in jail if found guilty of insulting the presidency. The MP was ordered to spend one more night in police custody pending determination of his application to be released on bail after being charged with two counts of subverting justice and making statements to create disaffection against the presidency.
His charging brought a rare occurrence in court, as it took six hours of heated arguments between the prosecution and his lawyers on the simple question of whether he should be released on bail or detained until the case is heard and determined. It forced chief magistrate Francis Andayi to adjourn all other matters scheduled for hearing before his court while those who were to plead to fresh charges were sent to other courts.
As the lawyers battled in court, hundreds of Owino’s supporters camped outside the Milimani Law Courts demanding that he be released.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Nicholas Mutuku led a team of four prosecutors in asking the magistrate not to release the legislature on bail, arguing that he is a perennial offender who has been charged with four similar cases within the last 17 months.
“He is the kind of person who if released will not stop committing similar offences. The words he uttered are very serious considering the consequences that befell the three presidents he referred to in his statements,” said Mutuku.
Owino’s lawyers led by senior counsel James Orengo and Otiende Amollo objected to the charges and the application to detain the MP.
In addition, Mr Orengo submitted that there is no single person referred to as the “presidency”, given that the term is a collective name for office of the president and that the MP could have not committed an offence against the entire office. According to the lawyers, the move to charge the MP with an unknown offence was a calculated attempt by the government to strip him his seat.
“We know that the real purpose of the charges and application to deny him bail are not what is stated in court but a calculated move to ensure he misses eight sittings of parliament so that the speaker can declare his seat vacant,” said Amollo.