3 Kenyan Men Vanish After Police Complaint
Human Rights Officials Demand Inquiry
NAIROBI, Kenya--The day started like any other for Willie Kimani, a Nairobi lawyer. He put on his gray trousers, jungle-green jacket and black shoes. He said goodbye to his wife and two young sons. And he walked out the door.
But what came next was like something out of a thriller movie--one with an unsettling end--and has mobilized Kenya’s lawyers, roped in several Western embassies and set off loud alarm bells in Kenya’s human rights community.
Last Thursday, Mr. Kimani, who has worked as a human rights defender since he graduated from law school five years ago, accompanied a client to trial in a case involving a police officer.
After a couple of witnesses testified, the case was adjourned a little before noon. Mr. Kimani and his client left the courthouse, on the outskirts of Nairobi, in a taxi.
Then they disappeared.
Mr. Kimani, an investigator with an American legal aid group, had been working on the case of a young motorcycle taxi driver who had been shot in the arm, apparently accidentally, by a police officer last year.
The driver, Josephat Mwenda, filed a complaint against the officer, who has not been publicly identified. The officer and his colleagues retaliated by pursuing false charges against Mr. Mwenda, including drug counts and accusations of petty crimes like riding a motorcycle without a helmet, according to human rights activists.
Still, Mr. Mwenda was reluctant to drop his complaint, and human rights advocates urged him to resist what appeared to be a pattern of police intimidation and harassment.
Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, after the men had left the courtroom and no one had been able to reach them, Mr. Mwenda’s wife received a strange phone call, colleagues say.
A passer-by happened to see two men, maybe more, locked in a metal container on a police base yelling through a barred window for help.
The men threw out a note scribbled on toilet paper. The note was from Mr. Mwenda. It said:
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