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Cablegate: Court Rules Father Kaiser's Death Homicide

VZCZCXRO8673
PP RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR
DE RUEHNR #3251/01 2251120
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131120Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1671
INFO RUCNEAE/EAST AFRICAN ESC POSTS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NAIROBI 003251

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KCRM CASC KE
SUBJECT: COURT RULES FATHER KAISER'S DEATH HOMICIDE

REF: A. 00 NAIROBI 6976 B. 00 NAIROBI 06817

C. 00 NAIROBI 6814 D. 99 NAIROBI 12167

1. (SBU) Summary: The recent finding by a Kenyan court that
the death in 2000 of an American priest, Father John Kaiser,
was a result of homicide has stirred renewed interest in the
case due to his prominence as a human rights activist and
vocal opponent of the former Kenyan government. The Court
Magistrate rejected the previous joint Kenyan/FBI conclusion
that Father Kaiser committed suicide, saying the
investigation was severely flawed, and recommended a new
investigation be opened. The Embassy has no plans to publicly
rebut the court,s finding but will continue to follow the
case closely. END SUMMARY.

-----------
Background
-----------

2. (U) Outspoken Critic of Moi Government: Fr. Kaiser was a
Catholic priest who lived in Kenya for 36 years. His
assertions that the KANU government violently displaced
farmers from the Rift Valley and incited tribal violence in
1991-1992 led him to publicly call for the arrest of
President Moi for crimes against humanity.

3. (U) In 1998, two females confided in Fr. Kaiser that they
were impregnated under-aged by then-Internal Security
Minister Julius Sunkuli. Fr. Kaiser helped them file a civil
lawsuit against Sunkuli, but the women later dropped the
case. Fr. Kaiser made many powerful enemies by this time,
and in 1999, the Kenya Department of Immigration ordered his
deportation for letting his residence permit lapse. Only
intervention by the Catholic Church and the U.S. Ambassador
reversed his ordered deportation.

4. (U) Kaiser,s Death: On the morning of August 24, 2000
the body of Fr. Kaiser was found outside Naivasha about 40
miles northwest of Nairobi. Lying next to Fr. Kaiser was his
shotgun. One shell had been fired. His pickup truck was about
33 feet away in a ditch. Due to his prominence throughout
Kenya as a human rights advocate and for challenging the Moi
government, many people assumed that Fr. Kaiser,s death was
a homicide, ordered by one of his enemies and likely a high
government official.

------------------
FBI Investigation
------------------

5. (U) At the invitation of the Kenyan government, the U.S.
Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) sent an investigative
team to Kenya within three days of Kaiser,s death to work
with the Criminal Investigation Director (CID). The
investigation began with an assumption by both the FBI and
CID that a crime had been committed. After an exhaustive
investigation which included interviewing over 200 people and
collecting extensive amounts of physical evidence, the FBI
concluded though that Kaiser,s death was the result of a
self-inflicted wound. In its 81-page report, issued on April
21, 2001, the FBI concluded that based on forensic evidence
and prior history of mental health and erratic behavior, Fr.
Kaiser committed suicide.

--------------
Kaiser Inquest
--------------

6. (U) Unhappy with the FBI,s conclusion, Kenyan church
leaders pressured the government to begin a new inquest into
Fr. Kaiser,s death. The inquest ran from August 2003 to
2007. On August 1, 2007, Naivasha Chief Magistrate Maureen
Odero rejected the FBI,s report and ruled that Fr. Kaiser
was killed. She stated that the FBI investigation was
&seriously flawed8 and &replete with loopholes and missing
links and raise more questions than answers.8 The court
also stated that no evidence was introduced to back the claim
that the priest was mentally unstable. (Note: The U.S.
Embassy sent a Diplomatic Note to the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs in January to make available three FBI agents to
provide testimony at the inquest. The agents were never
summoned to testify and the FBI was not afforded the
opportunity to produce evidence. End Note.)

7. (U) Judge Odero recommended the government open a new
investigation to determine who was behind Fr. Kaiser,s
death. According to Odero, the new investigation should
focus on Francis Kantai, who served under Fr. Kaiser at the
Lolgorian Parish and whose behavior leading up to the death
seemed questionable to some. The investigation also should
focus on Kenya Wildlife Service game rangers who were
involved in the disappearance of a rifle and magazine from
Mara Serena armory around the time of Fr. Kaiser,s death.

NAIROBI 00003251 002 OF 002


At the same time, Odero cleared former Minister Sunkuli of
any involvement, opining that Sunkuli would have targeted the
women who brought forth the rape accusations or his political
detractors rather than targeting Fr. Kaiser. As expected, the
court,s finding was well received by many in the Catholic
and local communities.

8. (SBU) Despite the accusation that its investigation was
flawed, LEGAT has no plans to pursue this matter further.
Local media have said little on the magistrate,s ruling
after the initial day of press, probably due to a number of
other issues grabbing national headlines. LEGAT believes
that issuing a rebuttal would only bring more attention to
the matter without changing minds. The Public Affairs Office
also has no plans to issue a public statement regarding the
ruling for the same reason.

-------
Comment
-------

9. (SBU) Despite the reduced amount of press, we do expect
the case to continue to receive attention by groups in the
U.S. as well as in Kenya. However, it seems unlikely that
the government will open a new investigation seven years
after death. According to recent local press report, there is
a backlog of approximately one million cases pending in
Kenyan courts. We will continue to monitor the case and
provide further updates as they arise.

RANNEBERGER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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