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Scandal spreads over death of Venezuelan envoy in Kenya

July 30, 2012 | 12:58 pm

Dwight Saragay
The slaying of Venezuela's newly arrived ambassador in Nairobi has led to the arrest of another senior envoy and unleashed a torrent of scandalous allegations about sexual harassment, embassy power plays and retaliation against whistle-blowers.

Since acting Ambassador Olga Fonseca was found strangled and trussed with wire in her bedroom Friday, Kenyan authorities have rounded up at least nine alleged conspirators and witnesses, including First Secretary Dwight Saragay, whom police have named as their prime suspect.

"They are the right suspects in this case,” Nairobi's criminal investigation chief, Nicholas Kamwende, told journalists in the Kenyan capital, referring to Saragay and a local physician, Mohammed Ahmed, who was still at large Monday but being sought by police.

Fonseca, 57, had arrived in Nairobi on July 15 to replace Gerardo Carillo-Silva, who was withdrawn from the embassy post he had held for six years after at least three male Kenyan employees accused him of sexually harassing them. Fonseca had moved into the diplomatic residence two days before she was killed, embassy employees told police and reporters.

Saragay's diplomatic immunity was waived, according to a statement from the Supreme Court of Kenya. During a court appearance Monday, prosecutor Tabitha Ouya asked for a 14-day extension of the statutory requirement to charge Saragay within 24 hours of his arrest, saying more time was needed to investigate and process DNA evidence. High Court Judge Florence Muchemi said she would rule on the extension request Tuesday, Kenya's CapitalFM News reported.

Saragay appeared in court with attorney Jotham Arwa, who objected to the request for an extension, and the prosecutor's claim that Saragay should be denied bail because he would intimidate witnesses if released. Arwa also told the judge that Saragay is a student at the University of Nairobi and that his studies would be adversely affected if he has to remain in jail.

Little detail of the case emerged at the hearing, but Kenyan media provided a fuller picture based on interviews with unidentified embassy employees. Kenya Broadcasting Corp. quoted embassy staffers as saying that Fonseca had fired employees who had filed complaints with police about the alleged harassment by Carillo-Silva.

Among those arrested for alleged complicity in Fonseca's death were the ambassador's driver and two security guards on duty the night of the killing, the Standard newspaper reported.

Fonseca's body was found in her bedroom Friday morning with wires around her feet and neck, China's official New China News Agency reported, citing unnamed embassy sources.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issued a statement Friday lamenting the "deplorable" killing of the veteran diplomat, who had previously served at other embassies in Africa and at the United Nations. Venezuelan media reported this month that Fonseca had fired everyone involved in the harassment scandal immediately upon arrival. Caracas media on Monday reported only that an unnamed "functionary" at the Nairobi embassy had been detained.


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-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles

Photo: Dwight Saragay, first secretary at the Venezuelan Embassy in Nairobi, appears in court in the Kenyan capital on Monday in connection with the killing of the recently arrived acting ambassador, Olga Fonseca. Kenyan authorities were seeking a 14-day extension of the deadline for filing charges to allow further investigation. Credit: AFP/Getty Images