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Six Prisoners Die in Kenya Jail

Six people have been found beaten to death in a Kenyan police station. Police say the prisoners died fighting among themselves, but human rights groups charge that it is the police who are responsible for the killings.

Kenyan police say three inmates will be charged with the murders of the six men. Their battered bodies were discovered on the floor of a police cell Monday.

Lucas Munyua, a doctor who saw the bodies, said they had multiple wounds, probably inflicted with a blunt object. Several of the victims had fractures of the legs and arms and another victim had an eye gouged out.

The authorities say the men died as a result of a fight among the 38 prisoners held in the cell of a police station in Thika, located about 40 kilometers northeast of Nairobi.

But not everyone accepts that explanation. Caleb Atemi of Kenya Human Rights Commission believes the police are, at least indirectly, responsible for the killings. "Because, one, assuming that the inmates carried weapons into the police cell, then that is high likelihood of negligence on the officers' side," said Mr. Atemi. "Two, if they fought and killed themselves, we have evidence of neighbors saying they heard screams and shouts. What about the officers on duty? Why didn't they hear the same screams and then intervene and stop the fighting?"

Police spokesman Peter Kimanthi says six policemen have been arrested and will be dealt with departmentally for failing to intervene in the alleged brawl.

Mr. Atemi says the police cannot be trusted to investigate the killings themselves. "They keep on making promises," Mr. Atemi said. "Even in Thika killings, we cannot allow them to investigate themselves. What we need to do is conduct an independent investigation because in the past, they've failed to investigate themselves. They only cover up crimes and continue to carry them out with impunity."

On Wednesday, the Independent Medico-Legal Unit, a non-governmental organization that investigates torture cases, is carrying out a post-mortem on at least two of the corpses.

Kenyan police are regularly accused of brutality and extra-judicial killings. Human rights groups charge that people are routinely tortured in prison and police cells.

Last year, six prison inmates were bludgeoned to death under controversial circumstances. Prison authorities said they had fallen while trying to escape. But medical reports suggested they had been beaten to death while in their cells.