Helping the police in Kenya can cost you dearly – human rights defender John Abok experienced it

June 30, 2013

On 27 June 2013, human rights defender John Abok was arrested and held in police custody over allegations of impersonation. John Abok is an active member of Bunge La Mwananchi, a Kenyan grassroots movement which fights social injustice, promotes accountable leadership at all levels, and advocates for police reform as a way of promoting security at the grassroots level. Frontline reports on what happened to him:Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

On the afternoon of 27 June 2013, John Abok was in Nairobi city centre area when he noticed some commotion. Three men were attempting to brutalise an individual they accused of being a conman. The human rights defender thought he could help avoid a scene of violence by talking to the group and after hearing the grievances of the three men, he convinced them to take the alleged conman to the nearby Nairobi Central Police station. John Abok volunteered to accompany the men. At the police station, police officers started recording a statement, but in an unexpected twist, they decided to turn against the human rights defender for his role in the matter. The police officers went on to accuse him of impersonating the police, and one of them reportedly lamented about “civil society members overstepping their mandate to the detriment of government.” Eventually, the rest of the group were told to leave the police station while the police proceeded to arrest John Abok and hold him in custody at the station. Some of his colleagues reported being denied access to him.

On the morning of 28 June 2013, John Abok appeared before an anti-corruption magistrate at the Milimani Law Courts. The prosecution alleged that “John Abok, while in Nairobi city jointly with others not before the court, falsely presented himself to be a police officer and undertook to arrest Abdinasir.” The human rights defender was not given access to a lawyer, pleaded not guilty to the allegations and applied for bail. John Abok was released on 28 June 2013 after paying a bail of Ksh 50,000 (approximately EUR440).

Front Line Defenders believes that the ongoing campaign of intimidation against Bunge La Mwananchi members is related to their promotion of accountable leadership and police reform. https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/22692

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