Kenya's High Court holds open air hearings to slow spread of coronavirus

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Gloved judges heard applications for bail on Friday as Kenya’s high court held hearings outside the building to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is justice under the tree,” said High Court advocate Ham Lagat, who was applying for bail for a security guard accused of killing a student in a fight. “Everyone should be given a chance to – you know – participate in fighting for his right.”

After he spoke some of the court papers in the criminal case were blown away by wind and picked up by a plainclothes police officer.Kenya’s judiciary announced on Sunday that courts would scale down their activities for two weeks to “design appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the virus”.

Only serious matters are being heard. All appeals, hearings and mentions in criminal and civil cases are suspended and foreign travel was banned for judiciary staff.

Concern over unsanitary conditions in crowded jails also means that prisoners are not being presented in court. The Red Cross visited the prison service this week to try to help prevent the virus from reaching prison populations.

A number of countries have scaled down court activities or banned the public from attending cases over fears of the virus spreading. So far it has infected nearly 253,000 people across the world and the death toll exceeds 10,400.

Kenya has reported seven cases but instituted strict controls, including banning the entry of foreigners from countries that have reported cases.

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