By Monica Kagia
Kilifi Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi — through his lawyer George Kithi — on Wednesday, April 15, told Mombasa Principal Magistrate Elvis Michieka that his client has never tested positive for COVID-19.
Kithi told the court that due to the fact that his client “was not a carrier of coronavirus”, there is no basis to legally pin him using the Public Health Act 2012.
The lawyer said that reports linking Saburi to COVID-19 were “crafted to tarnish my client’s reputation”.
“Your honour, we can confirm that my client did not submit any samples to KEMRI, which diagnosed him with COVID-19. Tests conducted on my client at the Coast Provincial General Hospital (CPGH) two days later showed that he was COVID-19 negative,” said Kithi.
“Your honour, [I know that] miracles do happen. But, on my client’s case, how would you explain this: his samples tested by KEMRI [on first occasion], indicated he was COVID-19 positive, then two days later, another test by CPGH confirms him to be coronavirus negative?” posed Kithi.
The lawyer presented before the court test results showing that Saburi, as of March 21, was coronavirus negative. He further stated that two subsequent tests confirmed Saburi had never been a carrier of the contagion.
“My client has never met the doctor who signed a report on his COVID-19 test outcome, which confirmed him to be positive for the virus,” said Kithi.
The legal rep asked the court to release Saburi on bond because it was “his Constitutional right”.
Mombasa Principal Magistrate Elvis Michieka said he will, on Wednesday afternoon, rule whether Saburi will spend ten more days in custody as requested by the Prosecution.
On Tuesday, April 14, the State prosecutor, Alloys Kemo, told the court that should Saburi be released, and allowed to reintegrate into the Kilifi community, his life will be in danger, given many constituents were angered by his refusal to self-isolate after returning from Germany in early March, hence allegedly infecting dozens of residents with COVID-19.
Kemo stated that “there is evidence” Saburi tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“Doctors’ and the KEMRI reports cannot be taken lightly (by this court). The accused should not belittle the documents. There will come a time when the doctor [who confirmed Saburi as COVID-19 positive] will be given the opportunity to explain his findings before the court,” said Kemo.
The State counsel said he was against Saburi’s release because police were yet to complete investigations, and, therefore, the accused could interfere with the process.
“Your honour, we are yet to secure information from the immigration department which will demonstrate that the accused left the country and came back on March 6 after he refused to surrender his passport.”
On April 6, Saburi pleaded not guilty to failure to comply with a directive contrary to the Public Health Act.
Saburi was charged with willfully exposing himself in public while suffering from an infectious disease without taking proper precautions, contrary to the Public Health Act 2012. He allegedly — between March 6 and March 22 — within Kilifi and while suffering from COVID-19, willfully and unlawfully without taking any precautions exposed himself in public.
He is accused of breaching Section 28 (a) of the Public Health Act, which states that: “Any person who while suffering from any infectious disease, willfully exposes himself without proper precautions against spreading the said disease in any street, public place, shop, inn or public conveyance, or enters any public conveyance without previously notifying the owner, conductor or driver thereof that he is so suffering, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding thirty thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.”
Saburi was arrested on April 3 by DCI detectives and police a few minutes past 2pm at the Coast Provincial General Hospital, where he had been placed under mandatory quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus.
The DG is said to have endangered the lives of tens of people he came into contact with after returning to Kilifi, Kenya from Germany.
On April 2, Health Cabinet Secretary, Mutahi Kagwe, announced that Saburi had recovered fully from coronavirus, and that upon being discharged from hospital, he will be charged with placing the lives of other citizens at risk.
Shortly after Saburi was arrested and taken into mandatory quarantine, Kagwe — during a press conference on March 22 — said the deputy governor will be charged under Public Health Act, 2012.
“This will apply to a senior government official in Kilifi who defied and refused to self-quarantine and who is now being forcibly quarantined in a facility. Upon completion of the period given by our health authorities, the official will be charged in a court of law,” Kagwe said on March 22.