Kenyan court rules police acted out of line in killing of Pakistani journalist

Islamabad — A court in Kenya said Monday that police acted unlawfully in using lethal force against a Pakistani journalist killed near the capital in October 2022, ordering thousands of dollars in compensation for his widow.

Arshad Sharif, 49, died when Kenyan police opened fire on his car at a roadblock outside Nairobi. Authorities said it was a case of mistaken identity.

On Monday, the court in Kajiado, where Sharif was killed, ruled the use of deadly force against the Pakistani journalist was “arbitrary, un-proportional, illegal and unconstitutional,” and ordered the state to pay over $77,000 to the family.

The payment was suspended for 30 days after the state’s attorney claimed lack of funds.

The court also ordered authorities to conclude their investigation and take action against the police officers involved.

Javeria Siddique, one of Sharif’s two wives, filed the lawsuit in Kenyan court last year on October 23 – exactly one year after her husband’s killing.

Speaking to VOA, Siddique said getting a verdict in this case in Kenya was a “big deal” for her.

“I was not very hopeful. This was a politically motivated murder,” Siddique said. “Of course, implementation will take time. For me, today’s victory will leave a huge mark on press freedom and freedom of expression.”

Sharif, a prominent news anchor, fled Pakistan in August 2022 while facing sedition charges. He had become a vocal critic of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment after former Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from office in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in April 2022.

In a letter to Pakistan’s Supreme Court in late 2022, Sharif’s mother Riffat Ara Alvi listed several members of the military’s top brass, including then-army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, who she said should be questioned about her son’s killing.

The Pakistani military and its spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have denied playing any role in the killing.

Sharif’s family has been unable to lodge a police report in Pakistan for the crime. Speaking to VOA, Siddique rejected a report Islamabad police filed two years ago against three Pakistani nationals who hosted her late husband in Kenya as bogus.

A Pakistani fact-finding mission which visited Kenya in November 2022 concluded that the father of five was the victim of a targeted killing.

“Arshad Sharif’s death is not a case of mistaken identity – I can say, and on the evidence we have so far, this prima facie is a target killing,” then-Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters in Islamabad in December 2022. The minister said the journalist’s body had bruises and signs of torture.

In a statement marking the first anniversary of Sharif’s killing last year, journalists’ advocacy group Reporters without Borders accused authorities in Pakistan and Kenya of duplicity.

“Kenya is protecting its police officers and Pakistan is deliberately steering clear of the possibility that its security services were involved,” the watchdog’s head of investigation Arnaud Froger said in an online statement.

The country’s top court began scrutinizing the Pakistani government’s investigation in December 2022. Siddique told VOA she has been waiting for nearly a year for the court to set a date for a hearing.

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