Kenyan police handed heavy sentences for rights lawyer's murder
By Humphrey Malalo
NAIROBI (Reuters) -A Kenyan court sentenced three police officers and their civilian informant to decades in prison on Friday for the 2016 murder of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani and two others.
The case triggered outrage in Kenya, where police face frequent allegations of brutality and extrajudicial killings but are almost never charged.
Kimani, his client Josephat Mwendwa and their driver, Joseph Muiruri, were killed shortly after filing a complaint of police brutality, alleging that Mwendwa had been shot and wounded by police.
Their bodies were later recovered from a river outside the capital Nairobi. The four defendants were convicted of murder last year.
The lead defendant, Frederick Leliman, was sentenced to death. However, Kenya has not executed anyone since 1987, with death sentences usually commuted to life in prison.
The other two police officers, Stephen Cheburet and Sylvia Wanjiku, and their civilian informant, Peter Ngugi, were given prison sentences ranging from 20 to 30 years.
The judge, Jessie Lessit, described the murders as "well planned and executed".
A police spokesperson said the police would issue a statement later.
The police say they take action against any officer accused of brutality, while the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), a body set up to probe cases of police brutality, investigates such cases and recommends them for prosecution.
The oversight body said the sentencing was a relief to the victims' relatives, friends and colleagues.
"It should serve ... as ... a deterrent to law enforcement officers who use their power to infringe on the rights of citizens," Ann Makori, IPOA's chairperson, said in a statement.
At the time of his death, Kimani was working for International Justice Mission, a global legal rights group that helps investigate and document police killings and brutality.
(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Bhargav Acharya and George Obulutsa; Editing by Aaron Ross and Nick Macfie)