On 16 May 2014, human rights defender Mr Joel Ogada was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for a conviction of arson. The human rights defender denies the charges and plans to appeal the conviction.
Joel Ogada is a farmer and member of the Malindi Rights Forum (MRF) working to protect land rights of farmers in Marereni, Kilifi County. The establishment of salt extraction companies along the coastline in the region has raised conflict between residents and the salt factories due to claims by the farmers that they have been evicted and displaced from ancestral lands by the factories. Community leaders and human rights defenders have been threatened, arrested and been the subject of judicial harassment.
A court in Garsen upheld the conviction of Joel Ogada of arson under Section 332(a) of the Penal Code. The Principal Magistrate court in Magarini had found the human rights defender guilty on 18 February 2013. The human rights defender plans to appeal the decision and will request bail pending the hearing.
Concerns have been raised regarding the fairness of the trial, as Joel Oganda did not have legal representation until late in the trial when MRF was able to get support from the East Africa Law Society for counsel. In addition, the human rights defender was not allowed to cross-examine key witnesses.
Front Line Defenders expresses its concern regarding the conviction against human rights defender Joel Ogada, as it is solely related to his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.