Kenya announces new enquiry into US priest's death

By Ecumenical News International
August 24, 2007

The Kenyan government has ordered a fresh investigation into the death of the Rev John Anthony Kaiser, the Roman Catholic US-born priest, who died in the East African country on 24 August 2000 - writes Fredrick Nzwili from Nairobi.

"I have directed the commissioner of police to expeditiously and comprehensively carry out further investigations as identified by the court, and to return the investigation file to me for further direction," said Attorney General Amos Wako in a statement to the media on 22 August.

The announcement from Kenya's top law enforcement official came ahead of the seventh anniversary of the priest's death, which Kenya's Catholic Church will mark on 25 August in Ngong' on the outskirts of Nairobi.

The government directive follows a court ruling, after nearly four years of deliberation, that rejected the findings of a US Federal Bureau of Investigation report that the priest had committed suicide, and instead said he had been murdered. Nairobi Magistrate Maureen Odero, who presided over the final court's sitting, which concluded on 1 August, cited loopholes in the FBI report.

"This is to inform the public that I have accepted the recommendations of the inquest court," said Wako.

The government had set up the inquest into the priest's death on 4 April 2003, following pressure from the country's Catholic bishops. The bishops, priests and lay people who knew Kaiser described him a strong person who would not have taken his own life.

His body was found at Morendat junction on the Nairobi to Nakuru highway, with a gunshot wound to the back of his head. Kaiser's pick-up truck was parked near the scene. Witnesses had also testified that the priest, who was born in Perham, Minnesota, and was a member of the British-based Mill Hill Missionaries, had been an outspoken critic of government corruption, and had received death threats.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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