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Standard journalist Laban Cliff Onserio to spend Christmas in jail

By Mary Wambui December 25th, 2022 3 min read

Standard Media Group’s Chief of Staff Laban Cliff Onserio will spend his Christmas in custody after the anti-terror court in Kahawa allowed investigators to hold him for three more days to complete investigations.

Onserio was arrested last Sunday at the Holy Family Basilica church parking lot for possing a grenade.

The Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU) had sought to detain Onserio for 10 days to gather reports from various government agencies that are helping analyse his phones and the grenade that was seized from him on Sunday.

Senior Resident Magistrate Oscar Wanyaga ordered that he be released earlier in the event that the probe is completed before December 30.

“If there is no evidence, there is no need to keep the suspect up to December 30th. The law says the moment you realise there is no evidence, you release. The moment you find evidence, you charge,” Mr Wanyaga said.

“The guiding principle in our criminal justice system is that an accused person or a respondent, in this case, is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In this case, the respondent has even not been charged whereas the prosecution has gone to lengths to show how serious the charges are, there is no indication as to the respondent being a flight risk,” the magistrate said.

The court noted that while it is clear from the complexity of the matter and the steps taken by the investigators as explained in the Investigating Officer’s supporting affidavit that there’s need for the police to complete the investigations, it is yet to be told whether the grenade is an explosive device or the nature of destruction that the device can cause.

“The court appreciates that there is no dispute as at this stage that he was found with a flash-bang grenade. This however does not mean that the prosecution has a blank cheque to keep the respondent in custody,” he added.

The Magistrate said the court is convinced that in the next few days there should be a form of conclusive report or in-depth report that will advise the prosecution, police and the court as to the nature of charges and nature of exhibits that were recovered from the respondent.

“I am therefore not convinced that there is a justification for 10 days. Consequently, and in the interest of justice and public safety and the weight of this matter, I am going to grant this application but with a modification, I will grant the police up to December 29 to complete their investigations,” the magistrate ordered.

Laban is therefore expected back in the dock on December 30 for plea taking or release depending on the outcome of the probe.

The journalist was arrested on Sunday after he was found in possession of a flash bang grenade and a pocket phone at the Holy Family Basilica’s parking lot which he threatened to detonate following an altercation with some revelers.

Police are investigating whether the GA-25 pocket phone and two I-phones recovered have any terrorism links.

ATPU has written to the Communications Authority of Kenya seeking information about the registration, ownership and frequency allocated to the GA-25 pocket phone that Laban was found with on Sunday.

The unit is also seeking assistance from the Kenya Wildlife Service, Administration Police, Kenya Prisons Service, National Youth Service, Kenya Police Service, Kenya Forest Service, and the Kenya Military Police to establish if the pocket phone is a property of the government.

Laban’s lawyer Mr Ishmael Nyaribo defended his client saying the pocket phone has no connection to criminal activities and that it is readily available on Amazon.

“Mr Onserio has never slept in any police station before or gotten involved in any crime. We plead with this court to find that there are no compelling reasons to continue holding Laban,” he told the court.

The prosecution also said the phones are currently being analysed at the ATPU ICT laboratories whose outcome will help establish evidence against him or exonerate the respondent.

A report from the Bomb Disposal Unit which was handed over the grenade for assessment and detonation will also be presented in court as part of the evidence.

He was first presented in court on December 19 when detectives were granted three days to complete their investigations.

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