Prosecutors in Kenya have charged a freelance photographer with the murder of LGBTQ+ activist Edwin Kiprotich Kipruto, better known as Edwin Chiloba. Four others under arrest were released without charges, although the investigation continues.
Jacktone Odhiambo appeared in an Eldoret court earlier today, where prosecutors told a judge they would charge him with murder, according to a report in The Nation. Eldoret is northwest of Nairobi. Odhiambo reportedly was in a sexual relationship with the 25-year-old Chiloba. An autopsy revealed the activist had been smothered with socks stuffed into his mouth and a piece of fabric used to cover his mouth and nose. His body was placed in a metal box which was later seen tossed from a vehicle on Kipenyo-Kaptinga road in Mokombet.
“Following our investigation, we have established that four of the suspects are not linked to the murder,” State Counsel Anthony Fedha said in court. “However, the first suspect, Jacktone Odhiambo, will be charged with murder.”
Fedha said Odhiambo will undergo a mental health analysis to determine if he is fit to stand trial. He also indicated three of those released today, all juveniles, would be required to report back for further investigation into their possible involvement in the case.
Chiloba’s murder resulted in an outpouring of support from the LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ advocacy group Pan Africa ILGA tweeted its condolences to family and friends, and offered words of encouragement to the local community.
“We pray that his soul will rest in power as police continue to investigate the incidents that led to his death,” the group tweeted. “We pray for comfort for his family and friends and all activists in Kenya. We will continue to follow this and provide all support to Kenyan activists as this situation presents a worrying environment for them.”
The case also attracted international attention. Earlier this month, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price tweeted his support to Chiloba's family, while calling for “full accountability” for those responsible for Chiloba’s murder.
Same-sex sexual relations are still illegal in Kenya under colonial laws from the British, and are punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Homosexuality is also strongly frowned upon by many in the culturally conservative country. As a result, activists and members of the LGBTQ+ community in Kenya suspected Choliba’s murder was a hate crime, but authorities immediately focused on a possible love triangle involving Choliba and Odhiambo.
Odhiambo will next appear in court on February 8.
https://nation.africa/Chiloba murder: Four suspects off the hook, Jackton Odhiambo to face murder charges