NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan opposition politician was charged with treason on Tuesday over the symbolic presidential “swearing in” of opposition leader Raila Odinga, reigniting street protests in which one person was killed.
Demonstrators took to the streets in the west, the heartland of support for Odinga, who maintains he was the winner of an election that returned President Uhuru Kenyatta to power last year.
Two opposition lawmakers present at the “swearing in” a week ago were arrested and later released. So far police have not arrested Odinga.
Campaigning lawyer Miguna Miguna was arrested on Friday in a dawn raid on his home. He was granted bail of 50,000 Kenyan shillings ($500) but has remained in police custody with his whereabouts unknown until he appeared in court in Kajiado County, neighboring Nairobi, on Tuesday to hear the charges.
He was charged with “being present and consenting to the administration of an oath to commit a capital offense, namely treason”, the charge sheet read.
Miguna refused to enter a plea, saying his case should be heard in a court in Nairobi, privately-owned Citizen Television reported.
On Tuesday evening, High Court judge Luka Kimaru ordered that all proceedings against Miguna be stopped until police brought him to a Nairobi court, as ordered, on Wednesday morning.
Isaac Okero, president of the Law Society of Kenya, told reporters: “Once again the state is wilfully violating Mr. Miguna’s rights by moving him without any notice to his lawyers or his family and, in order to frustrate their access to him, to a court stationed outside Nairobi.”
Odinga’s supporters protested against the charges, blocking roads and clashing with police in the western city of Kisumu, a Reuters witness said. Police used tear gas and fired warning shots to disperse them.
Witness Carlos Ouma said a county revenue collector was killed by a stray bullet after police fired into the air to disperse demonstrators in nearby Ahero, Miguna’s home town. County Revenue Supervisor Frank Omondi confirmed the death.
Also on Tuesday, the government suspended the passport of David Ndii, an opposition strategist, according to a letter he posted on Twitter. A government official, who asked not to be named, confirmed its authenticity.
Odinga ran against Kenyatta in an election last August which was nullified by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds. Kenyatta won a repeat poll in October after Odinga boycotted it, saying it would not be fair.
Three privately owned television stations were shut down last week as they began to cover the “swearing in”. Two resumed broadcasts on Monday, days after a court ordered them reopened.
Additional reporting Humphrey Malalo; Writing by George Obulutsa and Katharine Houreld; Editing by Janet Lawrence