NAIROBI, KENYA – On Friday, desperation gave way to joy for four innocent Kenyan men who were finally set free after nearly eleven months in prison.
In March 2012, a large fight broke out in the neighborhood where three of the men—two brothers and their cousin—lived. They were attacked, and two were badly injured. A local businessman offered to drive them to hospital, but instead took the men to a police station. They were confused by the detour, and shocked when the businessman then accused the men of robbing and injuring two of his employees in the fight—when in fact his employees had been the attackers.
But police were eager to show results, so the three innocent men were charged with the crimes and thrown in jail. A fourth man—a complete stranger—was also charged with the same crime after allegedly refusing to pay a bribe to police.
The four men spent month after month helplessly behind bars. They had no money for a lawyer to defend their innocence, and police mysteriously labeled them as a "security threat" and refused to release them on bond.
When their accuser offered to drop the case in exchange for a hefty bribe, the men scrambled to raise a large amount of money from family and friends. But they fell short and were left in jail, still recovering from their injuries and quickly losing hope.
IJM Defends the Innocent in Court
After six months in prison away from their families, IJM Kenya heard about the case and took action. With the four men so clearly innocent and their freedom so urgent, IJM came quickly to stand up for them in the courtroom.
"When I saw a lawyer, I knew my prayers were answered," said one of the men.
Over the next four months, the IJM legal team argued for each man's innocence. Witnesses to the phony crime repeatedly failed to testify, and the truth gradually became clearer. As they waited for justice, IJM social workers encouraged the men to keep up hope. When one man fell sick, they brought medicine he desperately needed. Without it, he said, "I felt like I would not have survived."
Finally, on January 24, the court affirmed the men's innocence. The four were fully acquitted of the false accusations. Pronounced free, one of the men clapped his hands to his mouth in shock—overcome with joy.
One of the free men reflected, "I'm very grateful that IJM came to the rescue, otherwise I would have had no one to defend me." As the men return to their normal lives, IJM social workers will help them readjust to freedom. They are thankful to be returning home and excited to see their families.
"If I could show you my heart," one man said, "you would see how happy I am."