Kenyan Tech Engineer Dies of Meningitis in Ethiopian Prison After Arrest for Telecommunication Fraud in 2015

A Kenyan tech engineer, who had been imprisoned in Ethiopia since 2015 when he was arrested on charges of telecommunication fraud, has died in prison.

Zak Muriuki worked for Intersat, one of Africa’s largest Internet providers before his arrest on January 10, Addis Standard reported. Mr. Jedrick Mugo, a Kenyan radio frequency engineer and Mr Ali Basir, were also arrested in the same area on the same day.

Intersat reportedly sent Zak to Ethiopia to assist a customer with the installation of a VSAT equipment. Zak had reportedly been on such work assignments to neighboring Ethiopia before.

However, on this occasion, while installing the client’s VSAT package, police raided the premises leading to his arrest. The incident reportedly happened in Jigjiga town, the capital of Ethiopia’s Somali regional state.

Ethiopian officials later charged Zak with telecommunication fraud. Zak’s trial, which happened at the Arada High Court Penal Division, was reportedly marred with translation issues, the absence of prosecutors, and the lack of witnesses.

Although Zak and Jedrick work for different companies, they both hired the same lawyer, who Addis Standard described as con-man. As a result, both Zak and Jedrick lost the cases and were sentenced to the Kality prison.

Zak was reportedly suffering from meningitis in the last few months, however he could not get adequate treatment while incarcerated. Local sources believe he died from the disease in the prison where Jedrick is still serving time.

Zak’s family, who received his corpse on December 11, reportedly refused to conduct an autopsy in Ethiopia.

“Zak is back home from prison, after 20 months, in a coffin. He died in an Ethiopian Jail..and we could no nothing about it,” Kenyan Radio Africa journalist Joseph Ogidi revealed via Facebook. “We are angry..you should be too. Share and let this government know we are angry.”

Kenyan authorities have pledged to investigate the conditions that led to Zak’s death, Citizen TV reported.

On Friday, Kenyan government spokesman Eric Kiraithe announced that an investigation into Zak’s death has been launched. Kiraithe added that officials would assist Zak’s family.

Kenya and Ethiopia, who enjoy strong diplomatic ties, have reportedly agreed to work together to investigate Zak’s death.

“Government remains engaged in efforts to secure the release of Mr Muriuki’s colleague, Mr Jedrick Mugo. We urge their employers to come fourth with critical information needed by the Ethiopian Government to shed more light on the case,” Kiraithe said in a statement.

[Photo by Alberto/CC BY 2.0]

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