February 25, 2009

The Honorable Mwai Kibaki C.G.H. M.P

President of Kenya
Office of the President
PO Box 30510-00100
Fax: +254-20-313600

Major General Mohamed Hussein Ali, M.G.H.

Commissioner of Police
PO Box 30083
Fax: +254-20-240955

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the arrest and abuse of our colleagues, author Philo Ikonya and Internet writer Fwamba N C Fwamba.

According to our information, Kenyan PEN President Philo Ikonya and member Fwamba N C Fwamba were arrested on February 18, 2009, while taking part in a peaceful protest against hyperinflation and the rising price of maize in Kenya. Both writers were reportedly assaulted by a police officer while in transit to the central police station in Nairobi. The offending officer allegedly grabbed Ikonya near her breasts, ripped her clothes and threatened to kill her and Fwamba. Ikonya and Fwamba were charged with “taking part in an unlawful assembly” and released on bail the following day.

Both sustained injuries from the assault and were hospitalized on February 19. Ikonya was taken directly to the Nairobi Women’s Hospital due to considerable bruising to the neck, chin, underarm area, and left hand. She is reportedly suffering from anxiety related to her treatment in custody. Ikonya and Fwamba have attempted to lodge complaints against the police officer who assaulted them but have been denied on three successive occasions. The same police officer reportedly carried out a similar assault in 2008 on another female activist, Ann Njogu, without consequence.

PEN American Center is deeply concerned by the reports of police brutality against Philo Ikonya and Fwamba N C Fwamba. The assault occurred less than a month after the murder of Francis Nyaruri, who was threatened by the police just before his death. We remind Kenyan authorities of their duty to protect their citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful protest and freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kenya is a signatory. We therefore call on the government to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the assault and ensure that the police officer responsible is brought to justice.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                 
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee  

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: His Excellency Peter Ogego
Embassy of the Republic of Kenya
2249 R Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 462-3829

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