Kenyan priest among five sentenced to death for murder of Italian bishop

(Photo: REUTERS / Antony Njuguna)Bishops walk pass the casket of the late Italian Bishop Luigi Locati during his funeral in the northern Kenyan town of Isiolo. Bishops walk pass the casket of the late Italian Bishop Luigi Locati during his funeral in the northern Kenyan town of Isiolo, 320 km (200 miles) from the capital Nairobi, July 20, 2005. Bishop Locati was shot as he returned home from a pastoral center where he had just had supper. Police have detained two men for questioning over the murder of the veteran Italian missionary in Kenya's lawless north.

A Kenyan court has sentenced to death a Catholic priest and four others after the 2005 killing of an Italian bishop who was a missionary for 45 years in Kenya, based in Isiolo, in the east when we was slain.

Father Guyo Waqo Malley, Mohamed Molu, Aden Ibrahim Mohamed, Mahati Ali Halake and Roba Balla Bariche were found guilty of plotting the murder of Bishop Luigi Locati.

Judge Fred Ochieng described Father Waqo as the mastermind of the plot as the eight-year trial concluded on November 6, Catholic News Service reported.

The judge ruled the five were "directly involved in the planning and killing of the bishop." A sixth man, Diga Wario, was acquitted of the murder.

The 77-year-old bishop was gunned down on July 14, 2005 at the church compound in Isiolo, in what prosecutors described as a "power struggle to control the diocese and its cash ahead of the bishop's retirement."

The eight-year-trial revealed that Father Guyo financed the acquisition of firearms, planned and recruited people to kill the bishop, and helped manage the guns and transportation.

The weapons used were reportedly bought at $33 and were placed inside sacks of charcoal.

"The guns were later hidden at Makaburini after the incident occurred. When they were recovered, a G3 magazine was missing," Police Officer Mohammed Amin told the court.

Amin also revealed that his investigations proved there was an existing conflict between Father Guyo and the bishop centering on donor funds, Kenya's Standard Media reported.

The judge observed that Guyo's mother died after learning that her son had been found guilty of executing the 77-year-old bishop, and expressed his sympathy, but maintained that the law must be followed.

Video evidence was also presented in court showing suspects narrating in detail how the group executed the killing. One of the accused, Roba Bariche testified that Malley was the mastermind.

Bishop Locati was from the northern Italian province of Vercelli. He was ordained a priest in 1952 and came to Kenya 10 years later. He set up the Isiolo diocese in 1963.

The murder angered many Kenyans with hundreds, including then President Mwai Kibaki, attending the bishop's funeral in Isiolo.

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