Ali Babitu Kololo
Ali Babitu Kololo is a 35-year-old father of two young children from a marginalised tribe in northern Kenya. He was tortured into confessing that he led Somali kidnappers to a luxury island resort, where the kidnappers abducted a British woman and killed her husband.
Despite strong evidence that he is innocent, Ali was sentenced to death in 2013.
Ali was never accused of being involved in the murder or kidnap itself, but under Kenyan law, simply being present when the crime is committed is enough for a conviction for robbery with violence, which carries the mandatory death penalty.
Following the attack in 2011, the hotel ordered staff and police to pick up anyone in the vicinity of the hotel as a suspect. Ali was arrested a few miles from the hotel. The British Metropolitan Police flew to Kenya the day after the kidnap to assist with the investigation. They reviewed the crime scene, interviewed witnesses and took forensic evidence.
When arrested, Ali was beaten and tortured. Officers squeezed and twisted his genitals, leaving him with urinary incontinence. Under torture he allegedly confessed to leading the pirates to the camp under duress. He immediately recanted his confession afterwards, and has maintained his innocence throughout.
Having funded and worked alongside the Kenyan police units, the British were no doubt well aware of their routine use of torture and mistreatment and Ali’s own claims were widely reported in local and international press. But, without making any steps to investigate Ali’s allegations of torture, the senior Met police officer relied on the statement provided by Ali under torture to help bolster the prosecution’s case, giving evidence in court that his two statements were inconsistent.
Aside from his ‘confession,’ the only other key evidence against Ali is a footprint Kenyan police claim to have found at the scene – yet, at the trial, it was found that the shoe in question did not fit Ali, and the arresting officer claims that he was barefoot when arrested. The Senior Met police officer also relied on this footprint evidence when giving evidence at trial, but despite having a designated photographer present when he arrived at the scene, no-one has been able to produce any evidence of this footprint to date. Contrary to the Met police officer claiming to the court that the shoes are “predominantly… worn by Somalians”, the shoes in question are common throughout this region of Kenya. Ali is not, in any event, Somali.
Ali is illiterate, and was denied an interpreter for his native language throughout his trial. He was also denied a lawyer for most of the proceedings, so had to try to cross examine all the witnesses, including the senior officer from the Metropolitan Police, himself. He was given the Chief Superintendent’s statement (written, and in English) on the day of the hearing.
Aside from one other witness statement, he has never seen any of the other witness statements or evidence against him. The Metropolitan Police claim to have provided all the evidence they collected, including that which may confirm Ali’s innocence, to the Kenyan prosecution. But the UK government continues to refuse to provide this, or any other information, to Ali or his lawyers.
Neither was Ali able to obtain any expert evidence, such as a medical assessment following his torture. By contrast, when the expert medical witness for the prosecution was unable to attend the hearing, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office stepped in to provide funding. They have refused to provide the same assistance to Ali for his appeal.
When sentencing Ali to death, the judge thanked the British police for their assistance, which helped secure this outcome.
If the UK government is serious about its commitment to promoting justice overseas, it must right the wrongs and ensure real justice is done.
Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team
Reprieve is calling on the UK government to honour their commitment to fight against the death penalty, and to right the wrong they committed by supporting the prosecution – which resulted in a death sentence for a man who may well be innocent. Having seen first hand that Ali was flagrantly denied a fair trial, at the very least they should now be ensuring that he receives a fair appeal.
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