NAIROBI, KENYA – In one terrifying day, Anthony and Silas were snatched from their daily lives and thrown into a crowded Kenya prison—a nightmare they would share for the next two and a half years.
Their only crime: being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Innocent but Accused
The morning of Anthony and Silas’ arrest was chaotic. A local family had been robbed in their crowded, slum neighborhood the night before, and police were eager to close the case quickly. But instead of thoroughly investigating the crime scene or questioning witnesses, they started rounding up men who happened to be close by and placing them under arrest. It was a common technique used by police officers who don’t have the capacity or the will to properly investigate.
Young father Anthony was busy at work in at his blacksmith’s shop, and Silas was working at a nearby carwash. Before they knew it, they were grabbed by police and taken to prison.
In their jail cell, Anthony and Silas, both in their late 20s, learned they were being charged with Robbery with Violence—a serious crime that holds a life sentence with no chance of parole. They were innocent victims of circumstance, but no one would believe their pleas, and there was no way either of them could ever afford a lawyer to fight for their release. (In Kenya, the government does not provide legal representation for those who cannot afford it.)
Life in the prison quickly became unbearable, and both men worried constantly about their loved ones at home.
Anthony had been the sole breadwinner for his wife and son, and Silas had been helping his aunt as best he could. Trapped in this nightmare, they started to lose hope of ever going free.
Surrounded by Defenders
One day, Anthony heard another prisoner talking about a lawyer who was helping him. He asked questions and discovered IJM, an organization working to free innocent men like him.
When IJM Kenya’s legal assistant met Anthony, he was able to determine quickly that that both Anthony and Silas were innocent. They were being detained without justification, but they needed a lawyer who could stand up for them in court.
IJM built a strong case to expose the lack of evidence and arbitrary arrest, but there were frustrating setbacks along the way. Witnesses failed to show up and hearings were postponed. As months became years, IJM social workers continued to support and encourage the two men in prison. When Anthony’s wife decided to leave him over the stress of the case, IJM was there to help him hold on to hope.
At the same time, local churches started praying for Anthony and Silas to find justice. A fifth grade class at a local Nairobi school prayed for them every time a new hearing came up. The men had gone from being completely isolated and alone to having literally hundreds of voices were crying out on their behalf.
A Son Returned Home
On March 20, 2014, Anthony and Silas filed calmly into court for the final hearing. Silas stared straight ahead. Anthony’s gaze was fixed on the open door letting beams of sunlight into the small room. IJM staff asked if they were nervous, but Anthony replied, “No. We’ve been praying. We are very confident.”
After a long wait, the court magistrate brought Anthony, Silas, their families and their IJM team into his chambers and read his verdict: There was insufficient evidence to keep them in prison, and, after 28 months, they were free to go home.
The men and their families were stunned; IJM Attorney Rebecca Namirimu says she’s never seen people left speechless this way. Relief and joy slowly spread across their faces.
Anthony’s father broke the silence, saying tearfully, “Today, you have returned my son.”
Finally free, Anthony and Silas went to live with Anthony’s parents. IJM Kenya’s aftercare team will help them rebuild their lives in freedom, hoping as well to reunite Anthony with his wife and 7-year-old son.
Both men celebrated and expressed deep gratitude to their IJM supporters and everyone who had prayed for their release.
When asked what message he would tell the world if they could hear his story, Anthony said joyfully, “God can do anything! We are very happy in our heart.”