A judge in Kenya has sentenced a former police officer to death for the murders of three people, including a prominent human rights activist in 2016. Three other men received long prison sentences in connection with the case.
In her verdict delivered Friday, Justice Jessie Lessit sentenced to death police officer Fredrick Leliman, who is believed to have been the mastermind behind the June 2016 murder of human rights lawyer and activist Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda, and their taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri.
Lessit described the murder as "most foul and heinous."
''I find the most suitable sentence for each of the accused persons is as follows. The first accused is sentenced to death on each of the three counts. The death sentence in counts two and three are held in abeyance,'' she said.
Two other former police officers, Stephen Cheburet and Sylvia Wanjohi, were sentenced to 30 years and 24 years in prison, respectively.
The officers' informant, Peter Ngugi, who is believed to have facilitated Kimani's murder, was sentenced to 20 years in jail. The defendants have two weeks to appeal.
Under Kenyan law, death sentences are commuted to life imprisonment, but a 2017 ruling by Kenya's Supreme Court gave judges the discretion to decide whether a death sentence can still be imposed.
Rights activists say at the time of murders, Kimani was defending Mwenda, a motorbike rider who had allegedly been shot by the police.
Kimani's murder brought attention to the ongoing issue of extrajudicial killings by police in Kenya.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights says at least 94 people were killed extra judicially by police in 2022.
President William Ruto has said such killings must end.