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Jul 9, 2016 7:44 PM

Kenya: Calls for justice heard as human rights lawyer buried

The Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Slain Kenyan human rights lawyer Willie Kimani and a taxi driver were buried Saturday in their hometowns amid calls for top officials to resign over police-linked extra-judicial killings.

Kimani was buried in his hometown of Kabete, while driver Joseph Muiruri was buried in Kinangop in central Kenya.

They were among three men believed to have been killed by police after being abducted on June 23. Their bodies were pulled out of a river just over a week ago.

The third man, Josephat Mwenda, a motorcycle taxi driver, had sought Kimani's help in pursuing charges against a police officer for shooting him.

Four police officers are facing murder charges in connection with the three deaths.

Isaac Okero, the chairman of Kenya's bar association, has called for the resignation of the East African country's interior minister and police chief.

"What is the cause for extra-judicial execution? Corruption is the cause. If we treat that these things will come to an end. We cannot finish corruption in the court or the police if at the parliament corruption is rife, if at the executive corruption is rife," said Paul Muite, a prominent lawyer and former member of parliament for Kabete in central Kenya.

Kimani worked in Kenya as a lawyer for the International Justice Mission, a U.S.-based rights group. IJM's Kenya director Claire Wilkinson paid tribute to Kimani's in a eulogy at his gravesite burial.

"Willie lived up to what he believed in and he fought for it every day," Wilkinson said.

"Our heartbreak at losing Willie is very real and very raw. But Willie has set a fire in us, a fire that is now burning across Kenya, a fire for justice. And it's our responsibility to ensure the fire will not go out," she said.

The killings have sparked days of peaceful demonstrations and a week-long job action by Kenyan lawyers demanding an end to the extra-judicial killings that human rights groups say are pervasive. The lawyers have been boycotting court sessions except for urgent matters.

However, on Wednesday the protests turned violent when motorcycle taxi drivers set fire to the police station where the three men are believed to have been held before they were killed.

An independent pathologist who conducted a post-mortem examination with a government pathologist said the three bodies showed signs of torture.

Mwenda's testicles had been crushed and his skull was fractured, Dr. Andrew Gachii said in a report presented to the court. The other two bodies had injuries from a blunt object.

Since 2013, the government has been vetting Kenya's entire national police force of some 81,000, trying to restore its image.

Kenya's police force is the most corrupt institution in the country, according to the global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International. It has been constantly accused of running death squads among other abuses.


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