MUHURI has sued former Changamwe OCS, Yusuf Ibrahim, for the brutal in-custody murder of Caleb Espino.
The tout’s murder occurred on wee hours of September 18, 2018, inside Changamwe police station where Ibrahim commanded.
At least two cops, all under the command and watch of Ibrahim, relentlessly tortured Espino to severe death. Witnesses said the OCS also got involved in the attack.
Espino died aged 40. He was a husband and father of four.
Mombasa Resident Magistrate, Vincent Adet, fixed the hearing on October 28.
The case first came up on October 1. Adet set mention on October 15, then scheduled the hearing 13 days later.
Adet had directed MUHURI attorney, Lumatete Muchai, to serve the Office of Director of Public Persecution (ODPP).
MUHURI had not served ODPP because it is going for a private prosecution against Ibrahim and National Police Service (NPS), the second respondent.
ODPP and Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), a body created to hold the police to account, are unwilling to punish Espino murderers, over two years after he died. And that is why MUHURI is prosecuting privately.
IPOA and ODPP are also withholding the identities of at least two other cops who, too, assaulted Espino to death.
NPS was yet to decide if the Attorney General (AG) or ODPP will defend them in the murder suit, and that is why the court said MUHURI should serve the state prosecutor.
During the mention, Adet directed the prosecution to file and serve their response, if any, within seven days. Adet set another seven days for rebuttal, then hearing.
How police murdered Espino
Police arrested Espino in the evening of September 17, 2018, at White Castle Bar during a swoop on drinking dens.
The officers demanded Sh10,000 bribe to free Espino and three others they had apprehended. None bribed and police locked them up at Changamwe station.
Espino lost his life after police charged and pounced on him with wooded clubs, punches, and kicks. At some point, police put Espino in a tight chokehold.
Police handcuffed Espino from behind during the attack, preventing him from finding his footing when they violently pushed and crushed his skull on a metal box at the cell corridor. Espino laid motionless. An autopsy revealed he succumbed at this point.
Mombasa Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) where police rushed Espino, said the victim was “dead on arrival”.
Witnesses disclosed to MUHURI that Espino, while at the cell, demanded to know why police arrested him. But police ignored or responded to him rudely, without providing specifics. Espino shook the cell’s grill in return, infuriating an officer who was on the reporting desk.
The cop called for reinforcement and pulled Espino to the cell corridor. Brutalities started, ending in a lost life.
Espino murder outraged a community long hardened to police brutality. His family, and touts who worked with him for almost a decade, staged widespread protests.
IPOA, ODPP silent coverup
MUHURI filed the suit against Ibrahim and NPS under a certificate of urgency.
“There is silent coverup orchestrated by ODPP and IPOA intended to protect Ibrahim and other persons not before the court from being arraigned to answer to the charges of the offence of murder of Espino,” MUHURI says in the petition.
MUHURI says DPP, Noordin Haji, has failed to discharge his constitutional mandate.
IPOA, legally mandated to investigate police misconduct, completed a probe into Espino in-custody murder and submitted a file to the DPP on April 16, 2020. IPOA recommend murder charges. But five months later, the DPP is yet to press charges.
But IPOA also delayed its investigation. The Authority took almost two years to forward Espino file to the DPP, despite, from the onset, having in their possession crucial documents that would have supported a successful conviction.
Such documents, whose copies are now in MUHURI’s possession and the subject of litigation, include witnesses’ statements, autopsy report, final taxology examination, among others.
“There is a grave danger of a miscarriage of justice and blatant denial of justice to the victim’s family… Fanis Owendi (Espino mother) stands to suffer irreparable harm if appropriate action is not taken with a view of prosecuting Ibrahim,” MUHURI says.
Autopsy confirms homicide
A postmortem conducted on October 16, 2018, which was later backed by a detailed toxicology examination released on February 28, 2019, confirmed Espino’s death was a clear case of homicide.
MUHURI, IPOA and Espino family witnessed the autopsy by four doctors, who included government’s chief pathologist, Johansen Oduor, and Emilly Odhiambo of Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU).
The autopsy revealed Espino died of multiple injuries on the head, upper cervical spine of the neck and chest. There was a fracture due to blunt force trauma, bleeding within the brain, and injury on the upper spinal cord.
Pathologists saw bleeding into both sides of the lungs and the back. A rib on Espino’s left chest had a fracture. There was also a tear within one of his lungs.
With witnesses’ accounts, corroborated by the autopsy and toxicology findings, settling the cause of death as a homicide, IPOA was from the onset well equipped to press murder charges. But it dragged its feet.
Espino uncle, Geoffrey Okuyosi, said before the trial: “The family wants to know the police who murdered our son, watch them arraigned, charged, and convicted. We will only find closure after this.”
On February 23, 2020, Agnes Callamard, the United Nations rapporteur for extrajudicial executions, said Espino’s murder offered a ground for her to raise it internationally. The detective wanted the Kenyan government to allow more probe and prosecution. The State has not moved an inch.
Editor’s note: This article is updated to cover court proceedings on October 1 and 15.