Kenyan Human Rights Defender (HRD) Joel Ogada was finally released on Wednesday 16th September 2015, exactly sixteen (16) months since he was convicted of arson on 16th May 2014.
Mr. Ogada, a farmer in the Marereni area of Kilifi County, off the Kenyan Coast, was sentenced to seven (7) years’ imprisonment. This sentence was reduced to two (2) years (including time served) on March 14 2015 in an Appeal supported by the East Africa Lawyers Society and the Kenya National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders. Mr. Ogada and Malindi Rights Forum have been in conflict over land with companies who want to mine salt in the area.
The ultimate release was delayed for some hours because the prison’s authority had received orders to produce Mr. Ogada in Court on 21st September 2015 for a hearing of another matter in which he is facing a malicious charge of forcible detainer. Since Mr. Ogada could not show evidence of him having posted a bond on the matter, a prison warden in charge of documentation had to accompany him to the Malindi Law Courts to verify from the Court records that the five Thousand Shillings cash bond had been posted.
At around 11 am, Mr. Ogada was eventually set free and handed to the family at the Law Courts. Mr. Ogada later said he was happy to be free and thanked partners who stood by him and his family during his incarceration and vowed to soldier on in the struggle against land dispossession the entire membership of the Kurawa Farmers Association is facing.
He is particularly keen on using the proceedings of the case in which he had been maliciously charged with creating a disturbance (677/2011) and for which he was acquitted on 20th August 2015, in the upcoming matter (713/2013) as well as sue for damages for malicious prosecution and the attendant persecution he has inevitably undergone.
Mr. Ogada now needs psycho-social support for his reintegration with his family and in society which is complicated by the fact that the Kurawa Salt Extraction industries took advantage of his absence from home to terminally evict his family from his land. Hired unknown men flattened his homestead under the watch of the security officers from Marereni Police Station and the Kanagoni AP’s Camp on 27th April 2015.