Kenya chief justice says police 'enhanced' security after shooting

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s chief justice said the national police chief had “enhanced” the security of Supreme Court judges after one of their bodyguards was shot, denying a Reuters report that a request for extra security had been turned down.

FILE PHOTO: Kenya's Supreme Court judge chief justice David Maraga (C) presides before delivering the ruling making last month's presidential election in which Uhuru Kenyatta's win was declared invalid in Nairobi, Kenya September 1, 2017. Picture taken September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The judges’ safety was thrust into focus last week after the shooting, which occurred on Tuesday evening.

The next day, five out of seven judges failed to come to court to issue a judgment on an election petition seeking to delay the next day’s presidential poll, sparking widespread speculation of intimidation.

A senior judicial source told Reuters earlier this week that after the shooting the judges, who are normally allocated one bodyguard, had requested another vehicle, known as a “chaser car”, to follow or go ahead of them as they moved around the country.

The source, who was not available to speak on Thursday, said this request was turned down.

The source also said the judges were upset at the government’s characterisation of the shooting as a crime rather than an attempt to intimidate judges who had recently annulled the August election victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The statement, issued by Chief Justice David Maraga’s office late on Wednesday, said the story was wrong.

“To the contrary, the Inspector General of Police has in fact enhanced the security of Supreme Court judges,” it said.

It did not give further details.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu had been allocated six police to guard her after the shooting of her bodyguard, who is in hospital in stable condition.

He declined to comment on whether any other judges had requested extra security, but noted that both the interior minister and chief of police had promised they could have whatever they requested.

He said he was not able to give details of the extra security provided because “that in itself would be a breach of security protocols”.

Kenyatta won the repeat presidential poll on Oct. 26 with 98 percent of the vote after opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the race, saying it would not be fair.

The repeat election was ordered by the Supreme Court after it nullified the results of a poll on Aug. 8 due to procedural irregularities. The election board said Kenyatta won that election by 1.4 million votes.

Reporting by Katharine Houreld and Ed Cropley; Writing by Katharine Houreld, Editing by William Maclean