August 29, 2018 / 10:47 AM / 25 days ago

Kenyan court temporarily halts criminal action against deputy chief justice

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s high court on Wednesday temporarily halted criminal proceedings against the deputy chief justice who had been arrested a day earlier and charged on suspicion of corruption, failure to pay taxes and improper dealings with a local bank.

Kenya's Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu appears at the Milimani Law Court after she was arrested over alleged corruption in Nairobi, Kenya August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Chief magistrate Lawrence Mugambi was presiding over the plea hearing of the deputy chief justice Philomena Mwilu on Wednesday when the ruling came down from the high court, and he adjourned the case until Friday, when he will give further directions on its order.

High court Judge Chacha Mwita, allowing an application filed by Mwilu seeking to stop the proceedings in the lower court, said the case raised constitutional issues.

Lawyers and journalists attend a court hearing of Kenya's Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu at the Milimani Law Court after she was arrested over alleged corruption in Nairobi, Kenya August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

“The charges facing the deputy chief justice are over a commercial transaction between her and a private institution ... the court needs to determine whether that amounts to a criminal offence.”

Mwilu was charged on Tuesday evening, hours after being arrested, and released on a personal bond of 5 million Kenyan shillings ($49,640).

Chief Public Prosecutor Noordin Mohamed Haji had told a news conference on Tuesday that Mwilu had abused her office for personal gain, undermining public integrity in the judiciary. [L8N1VJ490]

He said he believed evidence against her was sufficient for “a reasonable prospect of conviction” and it was in the public interest for criminal proceedings to be brought.

The government launched a new anti-graft push this year, led by Haji, who has brought criminal charges against dozens of civil servants and business people.

Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Maggie Fick and Andrew Bolton

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