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Kenyan court frees 16 boda boda riders detained over attack on woman

Kenyan court frees 16 boda boda riders detained over attack on woman
Motor bike riders locally known as Boda boda wait for clients in Kibera's district in Nairobi, on August 24, 2019.   -  
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SIMON MAINA/AFP or licensors


A Kenyan court on Monday acquitted for lack of evidence and ordered the release of 16 motorbike taxi drivers who were arrested after the attack on a female diplomat in early March that shocked public opinion in the country.

The drivers of boda-boda (the name given to motorbike taxis) were arrested three days after the violent attack, which took place in broad daylight in the capital Nairobi after a traffic accident.

In a video posted on social media, the young woman was seen screaming in self-defence behind the wheel of her car as a group of men tried to strip her naked and touch her.

"The investigating officer having found no evidence to prosecute the suspects, I hereby release them," Judge Martha Nanzushi told the court on Monday.

A 17th man, believed to be the ringleader of the attack, will face trial. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of sexual assault.

He was arrested in mid-March in a town near the Tanzanian border, 400 kilometres from Nairobi, after police said he escaped arrest by running away down a drain.

In response to the nationwide outcry over the attack, President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for a crackdown and ordered a general census of motorbike taxis in Kenya.

Boda-boda are a cheap form of transport in the East African country, which lacks a developed public transport network.

According to official figures from 2018, 1.4 million motorbikes were registered in Kenya, most of them boda-boda.

Boda-boda riders, mostly young men, have a bad reputation, disregarding traffic rules and easily attacking other riders. They are also regularly accused of snatching and harassment or assault, including rape.

The boda-boda were classified in 2019 as a "threat to national security" by a research unit of the Ministry of Interior.

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