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Nairobi Aviation students handed Sh3.1m bail pending trial

Fifteen students of Nairobi Aviation College arrested for storming the Nation Centre following an expose on education standards at the institution have been ordered to deposit a total of Sh3.1 million as bail pending trial.

The students are accused of participating in an unlawful assembly, assaulting a Nation Media Group photojournalist and damaging window glasses belonging to the media house while protesting along Kimathi Street on February 2.

One of the students was further charged with being armed in a public place and menacingly causing terror to members of the public.

NO FREE BOND

Some of the Nairobi Aviation College students charged at a Nairobi court on February 3, 2015. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU
Some of the Nairobi Aviation College students charged at a Nairobi court on February 3, 2015. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU

Magistrate Miriam Mugure declined a request by lawyer Mr Mukele Ngacho to release the students on “free bond”, stating that the criminal offences they faced were serious.

“I have instructions to apply for lenient bond terms…if possible, the accused who are all students at Nairobi Aviation College are only victims of circumstances,” Mr Ngacho had pleaded.

Each student will be required to deposit a cash bail of Sh 200,000 to secure their freedom from custody, except one who was ordered to pay a cash bail of Sh 300,000 against the charge of being armed with a stone and threatening members of the public.

They denied taking part in an unlawful assembly outside Nation Centre contrary to section 79 of the penal code.

The offence, the prosecution said, was committed jointly with others not before court.

The students also denied a charge stating that on the material day, at around 11am at Nation Centre, they “unlawfully assaulted Mr Solaton Njau, a photojournalist with Nation Media Group, occasioning him actual bodily harm.”

The prosecution said the students also damaged three window glasses valued at Sh 40,000 belonging to the media house, and that the offence was committed jointly with accomplices who escaped arrest.

Mr Edwin Isoso, one of the accused, was further charged with going about in public while armed with a stone contrary to section 88 of the penal code.

GAG ORDER

Defence lawyer Mr Ngancho argued that the students “became aware” of a gag order earlier issued on January 30 which was meant to prevent NTV from airing the controversial expose and “were expressing their constitutional right through a peaceful protest.”

“As is their constitutional right, they peacefully protested at the disobedience against the court order when the expose was aired last Sunday,” the lawyer told resident magistrate Miriam Mugure.

He said the “tragic events” accompanying the protest “cannot be attributed to the students.”

However, prosecutor Alice Penda objected to the lawyer’s submissions, stating that the criminal case facing the students had nothing to do with the impugned court order.

“I have taken into account that the accused are all students, they have all pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them, each one of them may be released on cash bail of Sh 200,000 except accused five who will deposit a cash bail of Sh 300,000,” the magistrate said.

She gave the students an alternative of deposit bonds of Sh 400,000, with sureties of like amount except Mr Isoso who was required to deposit an alternative bond of Sh 500,000 plus a like surety pending the hearing of the case.

The suspects have been ordered to return to court on February 16 for a mention of the case while the hearing was set for April 1 before the Nairobi chief magistrate’s court.

JKUAT RIOTS

It is not the first time the media house has been targeted over exposes on college education standards in the country.

In 2000, students from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat) engaged in two days of rioting after the Daily Nation had exposed rot at the institution including drug abuse.

Seventy students were arrested and later charged with violent robbery at Makadara law courts but were later freed when the prosecution dropped the case.