Kenya court strikes out sections of security law

AP News
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Posted: Feb 23, 2015 1:32 PM

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Seven sections of a contentious law the government says will help Kenya curb a wave of extremist attacks are unconstitutional, a Kenyan court said Monday.

The five-judge bench said the seven sections contravened the bill of rights, including one that imposed fines on journalists of about $55,000 or a three-year jail term or both for publishing stories and pictures related to extremism without permission from the police chief.

Opposition leaders and human rights activists have spoken out about these sections and others, saying they would be used to crack down on descent.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga said the court had largely sided with the issues his opposition group, the Coalition For Reforms and Democracy, had raised in their petition challenging the legality of some sections of the Security Law 2014.

"The court has largely agreed with us on principles of law. In the process, it has asserted its jurisdiction to supervise and ensure all the other arms of the state observe the constitution," he said. "The court has further asserted its responsibility to protect human rights and gone all out to strike out all areas of the proposed laws impinging on civil liberties."

"Although the court has not agreed with us with on a few statements of facts particularly regarding how this law was passed, we still congratulate the court for standing up for the constitution," Odinga added.

Odinga said his party will appeal on areas on the court didn't rule in their favor.

President Uhuru Kenyatta faces pressure to deal with insecurity caused by a string of attacks by the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab. The group was responsible for the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, which killed 67 people. It has also staged multiple attacks in Kenya.

Reacting to the court's decisions Kenyatta through his spokesman, Manoah Esipisu, said the government will decide on whether to appeal or to return the struck out section to parliament after making changes.

Fistfights and scuffles erupted in parliament between pro-government and opposition legislators mid-December over the vote of the Security Law. Opposition legislators said the government rushed the bill through parliament disregarding procedures.