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Lawyers and journalists attend a court hearing of Kenya's Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu at the Milimani Law Court after she was arrested over alleged corruption in Nairobi, Kenya August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

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By Humphrey Malalo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's high court on Wednesday temporarily halted criminal proceedings against the deputy Supreme Court justice who was arrested a day earlier and charged on suspicion of corruption, failure to pay taxes and improper dealings with a local bank.

Judge Chacha Mwita said: "I allow the application filed by deputy chief justice (Philomena Mwilu) seeking to stop proceedings in the lower court and I hereby grant a stay, meaning stopping the case."

He said the case raised constitutional issues. "The charges facing the deputy chief justice are over a commercial transaction between her and a private institution ... the court needs to determine whether that amounts to a criminal offence."

Mwilu was charged on Tuesday evening, hours after being arrested, and released on a personal bond of 5 million Kenyan shillings ($49,640).

Chief Public Prosecutor Noordin Mohamed Haji told a news conference on Tuesday that Mwilu had abused her office for personal gain, undermining public integrity in the judiciary.

He said he believed evidence against her was sufficient for "a reasonable prospect of conviction" and it was in the public interest for criminal proceedings to be brought.

The government launched a new anti-graft push this year in East Africa's richest economy per capita led by Haji, a former deputy head of national intelligence, who has brought criminal charges against dozens of civil servants and business people.

The detention of the deputy chief justice is the highest profile case since a series of corruption-related arrests began several months ago.

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Maggie Fick, Richard Balmforth)

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Reuters