An elite Kenyan police unit is on trial on a charge of wrongful death following the killing of a Pakistani journalist in Nairobi last year.
The case opened at the Kajiado High Court on the outskirts of Nairobi on Tuesday, with petitioners claiming that Arshad Sharif’s death was an “assassination” planned in Pakistan.
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The critic of Pakistan’s powerful military leadership was killed in October 2022 when the car he was in with another Pakistani man drove through a checkpoint outside the Kenyan capital and police opened fire.
At the time, Nairobi police expressed regret over the shooting, saying it was a case of “mistaken identity” during a search for a similar car involved in a child abduction case.
But a team of Pakistani investigators later said Sharif’s killing was a “planned assassination”.
His widow, Javeria Siddique, filed the case against the Kenyan police unit, known as the General Service Unit or GSU, that was involved in the shooting.
Kenyan police claim that Shariff did not stop at a roadblock on the outskirts of Nairobi, but his family and Pakistani investigators disagreed, saying Sharif’s killing was planned in Pakistan.
Siddique told The Associated Press: “I am suing the GSU because they committed the crime openly.
“For me, it was a targeted assassination because he was living in hiding in Kenya after receiving threats in Pakistan.”
Sharif, 50, had fled Pakistan earlier that year to avoid arrest on charges of maligning the country’s national institutions. This term is used for those who criticise Pakistan’s military, who have ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.
Along with Siddique, the Kenya Union of Journalists and the Kenya Correspondents have been listed as joint petitioners.
The plaintiffs’ submissions to the court accuse Kenyan authorities of “failing to prosecute officers involved in the wrongful death of Arshad” and demand a “public apology to the family of Sharif”.
A statement from the union of journalists said, “It has taken us some time to go to court because we thought investigations will be carried out, and the officer who pulled the trigger prosecuted.
“Nothing so far has happened, so we are justified to go to court.”
In Islamabad, police have charged two Kenyan-based Pakistani businessmen, who had hosted Sharif in the East African country, with involvement in his killing.
The case has also drawn international criticism from rights groups.