Tuesday, March 06, 2007

FBI agents fail to attend inquest of murdered priest

By Francis Njuguna
Independent Catholic News, published March 6, 2007

The inquest into the death of Fr John Kaiser, which was scheduled to re-open yesterday in Nairobi, did not take place, as three witnesses from the American FBI failed to appear.
The three senior FBI officers are: Tom Neer, a specialist in behavioral analysis; Dr Vincent Di Maio, a forensics specialist; and Bill Corbett, who has worked in counter terrorism.

When the inquest resumed briefly, Kenyan senior state counsel, Mungai Warui said the three officers had communicated early last month that they would be in Nairobi on 5 March, to testify at the inquest. But last week the FBI, sent a note saying that the would not be available to attend, due to "other unforeseeable assignments" the senior state counsel, explained to the principal magistrate, Maureen Odero. He said they would only be available in "mid March"".

Ms Odero said: "Mid March is a bit vague. We cannot keep on waiting for them as they keep putting up new dates. They need to be concrete as to when they can avail themselves for us, for we are running short of time and we cannot wait for ever".

She ordered the senior state counsel to communicate with the FBI and request the officers to appear on 19 March, when the inquest would resume.

Defence lawyer for the Catholic Church, the Mill Hill Order and the family of the late Kaiser, Mbuthi Gathenji, complained that the FBI seemed to be continually putting off coming to Nairobi to testify.

He said: "I'm not happy with the way, the FBI keeps on giving us new dates. They have failed to honour this court. We might be forced to seek for diplomatic powers of intervention to have them in Nairobi."

Mr Gathenji said the inquest would close immediately the FBI testifies.

Father Kaiser, a 67-year-old priest, worked in Kenya for 36 years. His advocacy for human rights led to his expulsion from the country in 1999, but the government revoked its decision after an outcry in the Kenyan media and appeals from the country's bishops.

On 23 August, 2000, Fr Kaiser was found shot dead at Morendat, 85 kilometers northwest of Nairobi. Newpaper reports said he had angered some members of the Moi government after testifying against two Cabinet ministers in an inquiry on tribal clashes.

The first police officers on the scene thought he had been murdered, but in 2001 the FBI ruled his death a suicide, and the Kenyan government agreed.

The Kenyan Bishops' Conference almost immediately dismissed the FBI results and questioned why it considered the information of only the government pathologist, not the three additional doctors it had sent to the scene to collect evidence. They said that, based on ballistics reports, suicide was a physical impossibility as the bullets had been fired from some distance behind him.
The bishops said that if Father Kaiser committed suicide he "involved himself in rather difficult contortions while in the process."

They said that, although a doctor's report said Father Kaiser had bloody finger marks inside his pants pockets, the FBI failed to explain how he got his hands into the pockets after allegedly blowing off his head. They also said no reasons were given as to why photographs taken from the crime scene were blurred, and no explanation was given as to why fingerprints were found on the priest's vehicle but not on the gun.

Moi lost the presidential election in December 2002, after 24 years in office. Several months later the Kenyan government ordered the inquest.

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