Suicide ruling reversed by Kenyan court in case of American priest


A Kenyan court found yesterday that an American priest, whose death was originally ruled to be suicide, was actually murdered, contrary to an FBI finding. The court has ordered a new police investigation into his death.

Fr. John Kaiser, a 67 year-old priest originally from Perham, Minnesota worked in Kenya for 35 years and was well known as an advocate for human rights.

It has been speculated that he was killed because he accused some of Kenya's most powerful politicians of being responsible for political violence in 1991-92 that was carried out under the guise of tribal fighting. He also helped teenage girls pursue cases of rape against a former powerful Cabinet member.

His body was found on August 24, 2000 on the side of a busy highway between the town of Naivasha and Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. His shotgun was found by his side, and his pickup truck was 33 feet away in a ditch, according to the AP.

Police at the scene initially said they believed he was slain and that it was made to look like a suicide.

At the request of the Kenyan government, an FBI team was sent to investigate his death and concluded that Fr. Kaiser had committed suicide.

The FBI report stated that because Fr. Kaiser suffered from depression he more than likely killed himself. However, the FBI acknowledged that their 80-plus page brief, filed in April of 2001, was not a substitute for a well-planned investigation.

Senior Principal Magistrate Maureen Odero, who presided over the inquest into the missionary’s death, described the FBI's work as "seriously flawed." But she said that based on the evidence she could not clearly identify who killed Kaiser.

The late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., and Kaiser's colleagues all rejected the FBI findings. The clergymen that worked with Kaiser said that he had been living in constant fear for his life and have called for a full investigation.

"The court totally rejects the FBI report and in particular the court rejects the conclusion and findings therein indicating that Father Kaiser took his own life," said Odero. "Based on the evidence before this inquest, the court concludes that Father Kaiser met his death as result of culpable homicide."

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