Friday, 24 May 2013

Activists face animal cruelty charge

A protestor squats by piglets at the gates of parliament during the demonstration on May 14, 2013. FILE
A protestor squats by piglets at the gates of parliament during the demonstration on May 14, 2013. FILE  AFP
Posted  Thursday, May 23  2013 at  21:56
A group of civil society activists that used pigs in a protest against a pay increase for MPs will be tried for displaying offensive behaviour and cruelty to the animals.
They will also face trial for provoking a riot that the prosecution says was meant to disturb peace.
A magistrate Thursday overruled an objection the group lodged against the case, saying, the charges were “properly constituted.”
The 17 activists were arrested on May 14 during the demonstration outside Parliament Buildings.
They are accused of unleashing the animals and feeding them on a blood-like substance that was poured on a section of Harambee Avenue and at the entrance of Parliament Buildings.
Endanger its life
The Penal Code prohibits the confinement, control and handling of an animal in a manner that may endanger its life.
The civil society activists dropped a pig and piglets at the main Parliament entrance, and blocked MPs from the chambers.
Some pigs had MPs’ names painted on them.
Their anger had been provoked by a motion by Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi to have the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, which had recommended a salary slash from about Sh800,000 to Sh500,000, disbanded.
The activists denied claims that they engaged in offensive behaviour and terrorised motorists.
Nairobi chief magistrate Kiarie Waweru Kiarie threw out an earlier objection to the trial and declared the charges facing the activists as merited.
He said any further objection to the case may be referred to the High Court for constitutional interpretation.
“As far as the charges have been drafted, they are adequate, properly constituted and matters that may challenge the evidence can be raised at a later stage,” he said in a ruling shortly before he ordered the charges to be read out to the activists.
The magistrate also took issue with the “arrogance” the activists displayed in court on Monday when they refused to plead to the charges, having cited constitutional lapses in the case, and instead started singing protest songs before engaging orderlies in a shouting march.
Thursday, they left the court premises peacefully after the stern warning. Their cash bails of Sh10,000 each were extended to the hearing date on July 15.
The activists told the court they will be lodging a petition against the trial at the High Court since “their rights of assembly, expression and picketing as provided for in the Constitution had been violated”.
They added that the prosecution was yet to give them details of the case, including witness statements.
The case will be mentioned on May 24.

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