Kenyan judge releases former Mungiki sect leader

BBC, UK/May 24, 2007

A Kenyan court has dropped charges against a former leader of the banned Mungiki sect for lack of evidence linking him to the gang.

A court in the capital said that police failed to prove that Maina Njenga administered oaths for the group.

Security Minister John Michuki blames the judiciary for thwarting efforts to rein in the secretive and violent sect.

Mungiki claims to have two million members and is linked to the gruesome killings and crime in central Kenya.

The group promotes female circumcision and oath taking and was banned in 2002.

"I acquit Njenga and others because prosecution has failed to prove its case to sustain a conviction," Magistrate Teresia Ngugi said in her ruling.

Mr Njenga was charged along with 28 other suspected members of the sect who were also freed. He however faces other charges of having a gun illegally.

"The judiciary is letting us down on its role of containing these criminal gangs like Mungiki," Mr Michuki told reporters this week after announcing a crackdown on the gang.

Police have so far arrested more than 200 people suspected followers of the outlawed sect.

The judiciary spokesman Dola Indidis has urged the minister to desist from making statements that imply he wants to control the courts.

"There are several cases involving Mungiki pending in court and commenting on them amounts to contempt," Mr Indidis said.

This week, six people were beheaded and their bodies dismembered in central Kenya by people believed to be the sect members.

Mungiki followers have been battling with public transport operators who have refused to pay protection fees to them.

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