NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenyan authorities on Monday charged the first secretary of Venezuela's embassy with the murder of that country's acting ambassador to Kenya in what police believe was a killing motivated by a battle over embassy leadership.
Dwight Sagaray was charged in court with the murder of acting Venezuelan Ambassador Olga Fonseca. He pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor Tabitha Ouya also charged Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Sagaray's friend and an alleged co-conspirator who has gone into hiding, with Fonseca's murder.
Ouya said that on the night of July 26 to 27 the two suspects strangled Fonseca. The prosecutor said others were also involved in the killing, though he did not name them.
Judge Florence Muchemi issued an arrest warrant for Hassan and remanded Sagaray into custody until his bail application is heard. Venezuelan officials previously agreed to waive Sagaray's diplomatic immunity so that he could be charged.
Fonseca was found strangled in the embassy's official residence. She reported to Kenya on July 15 to replace former ambassador Gerardo Carillo Silva, who left his posting in Kenya and soon faced allegations of sexual harassment by Kenyan male workers from the embassy residence.
Former ambassador Carrillo told the Venezuelan newspaper Ultimas Noticias that five or six months after Saragary's arrival in Kenya in July 2010, the situation at the embassy grew tense because "he refused to recognize my authority."
"I warned twice about the problem by phone: one (call) at the end of last year and another in February when the situation became unsustainable. And other diplomats of the embassy were witnesses to that," Carrillo was quoted as saying.
Carillo said he left Kenya on May 19 after receiving instructions from the Foreign Ministry to travel to Venezuela. On May 23, Carrillo said, he received a call from Nairobi and was told that a news article appeared in which he was accused of sexual harassment.
"I reject the accusation of sexual harassment. That isn't true," Carrillo told Ultimas Noticias. Carrillo said he had been working at the embassy since 2005. "During those seven years nothing ever happened. Why after my departure do they make it seem that I fled?"
Police said they believe the motive behind Fonseca's killing was a battle for leadership of the embassy after the ambassador's departure.
A police chief, who asked not to be quoted because he is involved in an ongoing investigation, said despite being in the country for days, Fonseca had developed a sour relationship with both local and international staff at the embassy.
Lawyer Ngure Mbugua said late last month that the embassy workers who were allegedly sexually harassed told him that after her arrival Fonseca demanded that they withdraw their sexual abuse complaints against her predecessor. Mbugua said he took on the workers' case after police did not act against the complaints. He said he pressed Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask the Venezuelan government to waive the diplomat's immunity against prosecution so that the former envoy could be arrested and charged in Kenya or Venezuela.
Mbugua said Carrillo fled before the process was complete.