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Kenya Accuses Americans Of Subversion, Embassy Denies Charge

January 12, 1988

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ The government said today that two Americans arrested at an inquest into the death of a man in police custody had subversive documents and were in Kenya under false pretenses.

The U.S. Embassy today protested the arrests of Marvin Frankel, 67, a retired federal judge from New York City, and Dr. Robert H. Kirschner, 47, a deputy chief medical examiner from Chicago.

″Mr. Kirschner and Mr. Frankel came to Kenya solely to observe the court proceedings into the death of Mr. Peter Njenga Karanja,″ the embassy statement said. ″They did not attempt to hide this, nor did they misrepresent themselves.″

The two were arrested Monday and questioned for more than eight hours by members of Special Branch, an investigative unit for internal security. They were released without charge.

″We consider most unfortunate that two American citizens of the stature of Mr. Kirschner and Mr. Frankel were picked up by the government of Kenya, held in local jails and subjected to extended questioning and not allowed to contact the embassy,″ the American statement said.

Frankel left Kenya Monday night and Kirschner said he was leaving today.

They were attending an inquest into the Feb. 28 death of Karanja, a member of the opposition who international human rights activists contend was tortured by police. Kenya denies the charge.

″The two gentlemen were caught by security personnel within the High Court precincts taking notes of a court proceeding without proper accreditation,″ Justus ole Tipis, minister of state for internal security, said Monday.

″They were found to be in possession of documents bearing subversive notes including a list of persons in this country well-known and connected with subversive activities resulting in their detention at one time or the other.″

The U.S. Embassy said the Americans were unaware that taking notes was prohibited in Kenyan courts except by officials and journalists.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said the United States was conerned about the case because ″high-ranking Kenyan officials had given specific assurances ... that the two American observers would be welcome at the inquest.″

Frankel told The Associated Press that police asked ″why we were butting into Kenya’s business and spreading lies about them.″

He was representing the New York-based Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights. Kirschner was representing the American Academy of Sciences’ Human Rights Committee.

The Americans said they arrived in Kenya during the weekend after getting clearance from Kenya to observe the inquest.

Tipis said immigration forms showed Frankel entered Kenya as a tourist and Kirschner as a businessman.

″What we shall not tolerate is for foreigners who disguise themselves as tourists, businessmen or journalists who come and pry into our courts,″ the minister said. ″Our courts are open for all. However, those seeking to take notes must in the first place seek accreditation.″

The Karanja inquest began Dec. 2 and resumed Monday after a holiday break. It was adjourned after Monday’s session until Jan. 20.

Karanja was arrested Feb. 7 and held without charge and incognito for three weeks before his death. An autopsy showed he had pneumonia and intestinal gangrene.

Amnesty International charged Karanja ″had reportedly been tortured by members of the Special Branch.″

Police said Karanja was involved in Mwakenya, a clandestine Marxist organization trying to overthrow Kenya’s Western-leaning government.

More than 80 Kenyans - including university professors, students, journalists and junior civil servants - have been jailed during the past two years after confessing to ties with Mwakenya.