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Huge sigh of relief for kin of Kenyan in Saudi death row

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024 05:42 | By
Dorothy Musopole, mother of Stephen Munyakho who was jailed in Saudi Arabia in 2011, flanked by members of the Bring Back Stevo Campaign committee, Joseph Odindo (chairman) and Henry Maina (left) speaks to the media during the launch of a funds drive to raise Sh150 million to secure Munyakho’s release before the May 15 deadline. PHOTO/Samuel Kariuki
Dorothy Musopole, mother of Stephen Munyakho who was jailed in Saudi Arabia in 2011, flanked by members of the Bring Back Stevo Campaign committee, Joseph Odindo (chairman) and Henry Maina (left) speaks to the media during the launch of a funds drive to raise Sh150 million to secure Munyakho’s release before the May 15 deadline. PHOTO/Samuel Kariuki

It is a sigh of relief for a Kenyan family whose son was on the verge of being executed for failing to pay Sh150 million in compensation by tomorrow (Wednesday) following a ruling by a Saudi Arabia Shariah court.

Stephen Bertrand Munyakho alias Stevo has been in Saudi prisons since 2011 when he was arrested and convicted for killing a fellow migrant Abdul Halim Mujahid Makrad Saleh from Yemen.

The two are said to have engaged in a fight at their place of work where Saleh was severely injured and later succumbed while receiving treatment in a hospital.

As a result, Munyakho who is currently incarcerated at Shimeisi Prison in Makkah region has been languishing in several prisons in the Arab country for the last 13 years after he was convicted of killing his workmate despite being injured during the scuffle.

Munyakho was initially convicted of manslaughter and handed a 5-year jail term on April 9 2011, in the case that lasted for six months.

However, Saleh’s family appealed the verdict in a Shariah Court, and in June 2014, the initial sentence was revised to the death penalty during the appeal case that lasted for two years and eight months.

Negotiated amount

Munyakho’s family was also given an option of paying Sh400 million as blood money to the Saleh’s family but it negotiated the amount to Sh150 million to save Munyakho from execution.

Last week, the family launched the Bring Back Stevo campaign as the last move to raise the money before the May 15 deadline set by the Shariah court.

But yesterday, Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Principal Secretary Korir Sing’oei announced that the Saudi Arabia authorities had consented to Kenya’s appeal to differ Munyakho’s execution to a later date to create room for further negotiations.

Expressing his appreciation to Saudi, PS Sing’oei hinted that the government had left nothing to chance over the matter adding that the religious leadership of both countries had been brought on board.

“I am deeply grateful to inform that authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have kindly granted our request to postpone the impending execution of Stephen Munyakho (now known as Abdulkareem), to allow for further negotiations between all parties. Stephen was due to be executed on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. As we devise strategies to bring this matter to a more acceptable conclusion, and thereby giving both families the closure they so urgently need and deserve, we shall continue to lean on the warm and solid friendship that we have with our Saudi partners, as well as on the goodwill of all Kenyans,” PS Sing’oei wrote on his X handle.

Engaging stakeholders

He went on: “In the coming days, we shall be engaging stakeholders in Nairobi and Riyadh, including representations from our religious leadership, to agree on the next urgent steps. I wish to extend gratitude to our teams - both at the Ministry Headquarters and our Mission in Riyadh - for their tireless efforts.”

The good news comes a day after the family conducted a fundraising event on Sunday at PCEA St. Andrews in Nairobi even as friends, relatives and Kenyans of goodwill continued to raise the amount through various platforms.

Munyakho is the son of veteran journalist Dorothy Musopole Kweyu. The 50-year-old is a father of three, one girl and two boys.“Without official communication, we are still in the woods,” said Kweyu.

“We are grateful for the development. It gives us more space to fundraise aggressively and explore other alternatives to save the life of  Munyakho.  We would have been more glad if the sentence was commuted. We still don’t have official communication,” said Joseph Odindo.

He travelled to Saudi as a labour migrant in 1996, aged 22 after he landed formal employment in a warehouse where he also obtained formal residence.

“Stevo went to work in Saudi Arabia as a professional and it is during his presence there as an employee of a warehousing company that this incident happened. He got involved in a fight with a workmate. They had an argument which turned violent and in the scuffle, one of them grabbed a letter opener. That is the weapon that has led to this problem,” Joseph Odindo, chairman of the Bring Back Stevo Campaign Committee told journalists last week.

He went on: “It turns out that they stabbed each other with that letter opener. They attacked each other with the weapon in turns. Abdul Halim Mujahid Makrad Saleh suffered severe injuries but managed to take himself to hospital where he later succumbed to the injuries.”

Musopole defended his son saying he was a quiet man with a composed temperament and easy to get along with terming the incident that got Munyakhalo in jail as an accident.

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