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Blow to Ruto as ICC summons key witness in Gicheru case

Blow to Ruto as ICC summons key witness in Gicheru case

By John Kamau, thingiragema@gmail.com

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has summoned a witness who is likely to complicate matters for Deputy President William Ruto.

 The summoned witness testified against Ruto and former journalist Joshua Sang and will now testify for the prosecution in the case against lawyer Paul Gicheru (pictured).

In the case slated for commencement on February 15, Gicheru will stand trial over alleged witness tampering.

Just last week, the court summoned hostile witness P-0743 and directed an unnamed state to arrange for his attendance in the case and liaise with the court’s Victims and Witnesses Unit to provide his security. 

The witness who also testified in the 2015 case is said to have committed to testifying but later cut communication with the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP).

“Despite the prosecution's use of all reasonable efforts at its disposal to locate or contact P-0723 to secure his voluntary attendance at the trial, he remained unreachable,” Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart was quoted saying.

The OTP has been speeding up efforts to ensure the witnesses who no longer want to testify in the case appear at The Hague and instead testify through video conferencing.

The ICC believes lawyer Gicheru committed offences against the administration of justice in order to undermine the Prosecution’s case against Ruto and Sang. 

“Specifically, with relation to eight witnesses, Mr Gicheru and other members of the common plan allegedly identified, located, and contacted the witnesses, offered and/or paid them financial or other benefits, and/or threatened or intimidated them, in order to induce them to withdraw as Prosecution witnesses, refuse to or cease cooperating with the Prosecution and/or the Court, and/or to recant the evidence which they had provided to the Prosecution,” the court said in a July 2021 statement. 

The ICC issued an arrest warrant against lawyer Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett on March 10, 2015 for what it termed as “offenses against the administration of justice consisting of corruptly influencing witnesses.” 

Gicheru surrendered himself to authorities in the Netherlands on November 2, 2020, over five years after the arrest warrant was issued. 

He was taken into ICC custody on November 3, 2020 before making his first appearance before the court on November 6, 2020.

Insiders revealed the ICC has mountain of evidence linking Ruto to witness interference.

While terminating the case facing him and Sang, the judges were firm that witnesses were either, killed, intimidated or bribed, and hence left the room open for the prosecutor to reopen the case should there be new evidence.

Already, panic has hit Ruto’s camp after the Office of the Prosecutor admitted carrying out secret investigations on witness interference by tapping telephone conversations.

Ruto and his allies now fear the ICC is coming for him since when terminating the case against him and radio journalist Joshua Sang the judges gave room to the prosecutor to reopen it should new evidence emerge.

There are also fears some of the telephone conversations tapped by the prosecutor include that of Ruto with witnesses since in the analysis of mobile phone there is indication he (Ruto) was saved as a contact under a number he uses.

The ICC deputy prosecutor James Stewart told Trial Chamber III judge Maria Samba he would rely on 30 secretly recorded audios by witnesses in the case against lawyer Paul Gicheru, sending alarm bells in Ruto’s camp.

Stewart disclosed that after witnesses disowned their testimony in Ruto's case, the Office of the Prosecutor begun a probe which has been going on secretly.

 The prosecutor added that the probe was carried out secretly in order to maintain security of the witnesses.

Though Gicheru has asked Judge Samba to erase the 30 audio recordings arguing they were secretly recorded by witnesses, chances of a ruling in his favour are remote.

What further sent alarm bell ringing in Ruto’s camp was the submission by Stewart that the audio recordings were telephone conversations of people who were involved in witness tampering and they were not taped in Kenya.

Those mentioned include Gicheru, Silas Kibet Simatwo and Isaac Maiyo, all close associates of the Deputy President.

 


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