Take Action for Joel Ogada
On 15 March 2016, following his arrest on 14 March 2016, human rights defender Mr Joel Ogada was charged with threatening to kill.
Joel Ogada is a farmer and member of the Malindi Rights Forum (MRF), working to protect land rights of farmers in Marereni, Kilifi County. The establishment of salt extraction companies along the coastline in the region has raised conflict between residents and the salt factories. Local farmers claim they have been evicted and displaced from ancestral lands by the factories. Community leaders and human rights defenders have been threatened, arrested and subjected to judicial harassment. Joel Ogada has been one of the strongest voices denouncing illegal evictions and land grabbing by the Kurawa Salt Mining Company and advocating against corporate impunity.
The human rights defender was arrested on 14 March 2016 at approximately 6pm by Marereni police officers in the Kanagoni area and then taken to the Marereni Police Station, where he stayed until the following morning when he was taken to the Malindi Law Court. Joel Ogada was formally charged with threatening to kill a security guard of Kurawa Salt Company, under section 223 of the Penal Code, even though the human rights defender was nowhere near the security guards of the Salt Company at the time of the alleged threats. The human rights defender was released on bail that same morning.
The arrest of Joel Ogada comes only six months after being released from prison on 16 September 2015 after his arrest on 17 February 2013 on fabricated charges of committing arson. On 16 May 2014 he was convicted to seven years' imprisonment – a sentence that was later reduced in appeal to two years.
Joel Ogada has been involved in a land dispute with Kurawa Salt Mining Company since 2011, when he was accused of farming on lands belonging to the Company. The land he was farming has belonged to his family for many generations. The case was later dismissed as Joel Ogada failed to attend two court hearings because he was in detention. Following this decision the Salt Company demolished Ogada's house and the human rights defender has been fighting to refile this case since his release in September 2015.
I express concern for the arrest of Joel Ogada, as I believe the actions against him to be directly motivated by his legitimate human rights work denouncing land grabbing and illegal evictions committed by Kurawa Salt Mining Company. Further concern is expressed at charges brought against the human rights defender and the continuous judicial harassment to which he is subjected.
I urge the authorities in Kenya to:
- Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Joel Ogada, as Front Line Defenders believes that he is being prosecuted solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
- Cease any forms of judicial harassment against Joel Ogada;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kenya are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.