Kenyan inquest rules Minnesota priest was murdered
NAIROBI, Kenya — (AP) - The death of an American priest from Minnesota who openly criticized the Kenyan government was murder, not suicide as a previous investigation found, a Kenyan court ruled Wednesday, ordering the government to open a new investigation into the death.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated Father John Kaiser's death in 2000 at the Kenyan government's invitation and concluded the Roman Catholic shot himself.
Senior Principal Magistrate Maureen Odero, who presided over the inquest into the 2000 death of Kaiser, characterized the FBI's investigation as "seriously flawed, superficial and lopsided."
"The court totally rejects the FBI report and in particular the court rejects the conclusion and findings therein indicating that Father Kaiser took his own life," said Odero. "Based on the evidence before this inquest, the court concludes that Father Kaiser met his death as result of culpable homicide."
She said that based on the evidence given she was not able to clearly identify who killed Kaiser.
Prosecutor James Mungai declined to comment on the ruling. Mungai had argued that Kaiser committed suicide.
Mbuthi Gathenji, the lawyer representing Kaiser's family and order of the Mill Hill Missionaries, said, "It is a great job. Our aim was to vacate the suicide theory and we hope that investigations will now be done properly."
Kaiser's niece, Mary Weaver, 43, of rural Underwood, Minn., said she got the news early Wednesday from a contact in Kenya.
"It was very gratifying," she said. "It was just a wonderful gift to know John's death is no longer clouded by these things."
Weaver said no one who knew Kaiser ever believed he would commit suicide.
"His faith meant so much to him and we know he would never do something that would put his soul in jeopardy," she said.
Kaiser -- a 67 year-old native of Perham, Minn., who had been in Kenya for 35 years -- was found dead on the side of a busy highway between the town of Naivasha and Nairobi, the capital, on Aug. 24, 2000. His shotgun was found by his side, and his pickup truck was 33 feet away in a ditch.
The first Kenyan detectives at the scene declared Kaiser's death a homicide, staged to look like a suicide.
Kaiser was known for his crusading human rights work, and had accused some of Kenya's most powerful politicians of being responsible for political violence in 1991-92 that was carried out under the guise of tribal fighting.
He also helped teenage girls pursue cases of rape against a former powerful Cabinet member.
The inquest took four years to conclude from when it began in August 2003 because a month after it opened there was a purge of corrupt and inefficient judicial officers that saw a third of Kenya's magistrates lose their jobs, exacerbating problems such as understaffing and a huge backlog in Kenya's judiciary.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)