My daughter in China jail was set up, says mother

Published on 08/06/2009

By Antony Gitonga

A family whose daughter has been sentenced to death in China for possessing narcotic drugs now says she was a victim of treachery.

Ms Mary Wambui Kimani, the mother of death row inmate Leah Muthoni Mweru, claims that according to court records, she was set up.

Mweru is among five Kenyans sentenced to death for drug trafficking, and who Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetangula has promised to help secure transfer to Kenya.

Her distraught mother told The Standard in Naivasha on Thursday that she has done everything within her powers to secure the release of her daughter but to no avail.

“My daughter is innocent. She was framed at the airport by a person who asked her to help carry a bag whose content she did not know,” said the mother.

Drug trafficking in China is a capital offence.

The mother, who was in the company of the family lawyer, Mr George Kimani, said she obtained court proceedings after her daughter, a mother of two, was sentenced to death on March 6.

“My daughter was a businesswoman who imported garments. She was never a drug trafficker,” the mother said.

Children’s questions

She said her family was suffering and she is at a loss what to tell her grandchildren. They have been asking about their mother.

“What do I tell my grandchildren when they ask of their mother’s whereabouts?” she asked.

The lawyer said Mweru was detained on September 26, last year, after she went to check on a consignment she had left behind.

According to the lawyer, his client was detained at First Detention Centre at Guangzhou after 1,323 grammes of heroin were found in her luggage.

“Though she was given a defence counsel, there was a language barrier and intimidation. We are planning to have the case reviewed,” said the advocate.

The lawyer, who also represents two other families whose relatives are languishing in Chinese jails, welcomed the move by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enter into talks with China.

Mweru’s mother’s only appeal now is for her daughter to be transferred to a Kenya prison where her children can visit her.

“I appeal to the Government to do anything in its powers to bring home not only Muthoni (Mweru), but also other young girls who are in jail in China,” she said.

Mweru’s uncle, Mr Samson Kamau, said the family was suffering: “She was the sole bread winner who assisted her mother in a big way. Her aging mother and two children have suffered a lot due to her imprisonment.” According to court records, Mweru arrived in China through Guangzhou’s Baiyun International Airport where the heroin was found.

‘Helped a business associate’

She admitted she had helped a business associate carry a bag that she was to deliver to a person in China.

It turned out that the bag had drugs. Her personal effects, including Sh400,000, were confiscated.

In her statement to the police, Mweru said the business associate gave her a necklace, which would enable the recipient identify her.

But presiding Judge Ding Yangkai dismissed her defence, saying the accused was aware of the drugs.

He ordered that the drug be destroyed and sentenced her to death with a two-year suspension of execution. If her conduct is good after the two years, her sentence could be commuted to life imprisonment.

Up to 200 Kenyans are held in various jails in Europe and Asia in connection with drug trafficking charges. In China alone, 28 Kenyans are languishing behind bars over similar charges.

The traffickers were arrested in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing between 2007 and last month.

Authorities say the number could be higher because some of those arrested over the crime use fake documents.

This makes it hard for the Government to confirm their citizenship for help.

Mr Wetangula plans to travel to China to help save the lives of the five. Among those sentenced to death are Peter Amisi Obonyo, 36, who was arrested in Shenzhen, China; Josephine Ochieng Onim, 25, and Grace Lucy Omondi, 57, and Christine Nyabera Ongowo, 47, were arrested in Guangzhou on different dates and sentenced to death.

Those sentenced to life imprisonment are Margaret Mudasia Engesia, Oliviah Munoko, Peris Mumbi, Jemimah Wairimu Wangai, Catherine Wambui and Jacinta Wambui Kuria.

Some Muslims in Kenya have opposed plans by the Government to intervene and help those in jail, saying the law should deal firmly with drug traffickers.

— Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati

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