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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 22:22 GMT
Kenya frees death row inmates
By Kariuki Mureithi
BBC, Kenya

The Kenyan Government has released 28 prisoners on death row and commuted the death sentence of 195 others to life in prison.

The Kenyan Minister for Home Affairs and National Heritage, Moody Awori, said most of those released had been on death row for a very long time, and some for more than 20 years.

Mr Awori said the 28 were already out and on their way to rejoin their families.

One aim of the action was to decongest Kenya's over-populated prisons, said Sylvester Mwaliko, permanent secretary at the ministry of home affairs and national heritage, responsible for Kenya's prisons.

The action was also aimed at fulfilling some of the promises made by the ruling National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) during last December's election campaign, he said.

The commissioner of prisons, Abraham Kamakil, said his department was against the death penalty, because mistakes could always be made in criminal proceedings, and it was longing for the day when the Kenyan parliament abolished it.

Abolition

Mr Kamakil, now regarded as the most reform-minded prisons chief since Kenya attained independence from Britain in 1963, is urging the government to abolish the death penalty altogether.

He says parliament should remove the death penalty from the statute books, stressing there is always a strong possibility that the wrong person could be hanged.

The last death sentence was carried out in Kenya in 1987.

Those hanged at the time were junior officers of the Kenya Air Force found guilty of planning the 1982 coup attempt against former President Daniel arap Moi's government.

This latest release of prisoners on the death row could be an indication of the new government's determination to outlaw the death penalty.

The current Minister for Justice, Kiraitu Murungi, who was the shadow attorney-general in the last parliament, often spoke very strongly against the death penalty, describing it as barbaric.




SEE ALSO:
Kenyan police given bail
04 Oct 01 |  Africa
Kenyan freed after 35 years
05 Jul 01 |  Africa
Country profile: Kenya
04 Jan 03 |  Country profiles


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