Economist David Ndii Monday spent four hours at the Nairobi Milimani Law Courts basement cells without being arraigned.
It amounted to a big climb-down from the high profile arrest that had dominated much of the day’s public discourse.
Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officers had taken Dr Ndii, who has in recent months emerged as one of opposition National Super Alliance’s (Nasa) top strategists, to court at about 3pm in a black car that was closely followed by a team in a red double cabin pick-up.
But Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko later directed that Dr Ndii be released on a police bond. He was freed on a Sh10,000 cash bail.
In ordering Dr Ndii’s release, the DPP said the police had not completed investigations into the offence to enable his arraignment in court.
Dr Ndii was driven out of Milimani courts at about 5.40pm in the company of DCI officers. He was accompanied by his lawyer and Siaya Senator James Orengo. Other lawyers present included Otiende Amollo, Edwin Sifuna, Apollo Mboya and Waikwa Wanyoike.
The DPP also directed that as soon as investigations are completed, the file be forwarded to him for appropriate direction.
An elderly woman believed to be his mother, Ms Miriam Wangari Mwangi, walked into the court cells to see him and bid him goodbye before he was led to the black car. “I will see you soon,” Dr Ndii said in Kikuyu language as he waved at her.
Dr Ndii was arrested at Diani’s Leopard Beach Resort and Spa on Sunday afternoon and moved to the DCI headquarters in Nairobi.
Earlier, the DCI had said in a tweet that the economist and anti-corruption campaigner was “currently under interrogation regarding matters touching on the offence of incitement to violence” but gave no further details.
Nasa said on Sunday that Mr Ndii had been arrested in Diani and that his whereabouts were unknown.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga condemned the arrest, saying Monday: “He has committed no crime. (This is) designed to intimidate and fragment the people of Kenya.”
Pro-democracy groups said Ndii’s arrest raised concerns about freedom of expression.
“Ndii has been at the forefront of articulating the problems with the way the country is run,” said Gladwell Otieno, executive director of Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) in Nairobi.
Dr Ndii is an outspoken critic of President Kenyatta, who was sworn in for a second presidential term last week after a prolonged elections season that has disrupted the economy and spurred protests that killed more than 60 people.
A senior policy adviser to NASA, he has called since a disputed August election that was voided by the Supreme Court for western and coastal areas that are opposition strongholds to declare independence from Kenya.
Odinga, who boycotted a repeat poll in October saying the election commission had failed to carry out sufficient reforms, has said his preference is for the country to remain united.
Kenyatta won the re-run election with 98 percent of the vote but the country, a Western ally in a volatile region, remains deeply divided after months of bitter campaigning and sporadic violent clashes.
Salim Lone, an Odinga adviser, said Ndii was helping to organise the “swearing in” of Odinga by a people’s assembly on Dec. 12, Kenya’s independence day, a plan that has raised the prospect of further confrontations with security forces.
Ndii’s wife Judith Mwende Gatabaki told journalists on Monday that he was arrested by men who identified themselves as members of the “flying squad” -- a police unit that is part of the criminal investigation directorate.
She said they searched the couple’s hotel room before taking him away and that she had been unable to reach her husband since.
“We came here to attend a wedding. There was nothing political about it and my husband is not a criminal,” Gatabaki said.