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The trial of Koigi wa Wamwere a human rights activist a former member of parliament and a prominent critic of the Kenyan government began on 12 April 1994 and is still continuing He is being tried with his brother Charles Kuria Wammere his cousin James Maigwa and GG Mjuguna Ngengi a local councillor They have been charged with attempted robbery with violence following an alleged raid on Bahati police station near Nakuru 150 kilometres northwest of Nairobi on 2 November 1993 If convicted they face mandatory death sentences Amnesty International believes that all the charges against them are false and that all four are prisoners of conscience All four men have been detained since November 1993 The trial of these four defendants appears to be part of a pattern of harassment of human rights activists opposition figures and journalists and especially those who like Koigi wa Wamwere have been atempting to investigate or report incidents of political violence in the Rift Valley and other parts of Kenya Government violence has been alleged in the ethnic-based violence which has killed around 15000 people and displaced more than 300000 since it began in December 1991 In the past in Kenya non-violent critics of the government who have been arrested many of whom have been prisoners of conscience have either been held for short periods and then released without charge or charged with sedition or related offenses such as subversion and released on bail after a few days or weeks Charges against them have then been dropped after some months In a new disturbing development the government has now evidently decided to use capital criminal charges which are non bailable against people whose only offence is that they are non-violent critics of the Kenyan government Amnesty International is concerned at what appears to be abusive use of what Kenyans call their hanging law and the arbitrary detention of political prisoners some of whom may like Koigi
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