Itumbi has case to answer in Ruto’s ‘fake’ assassination letter case – Court

NATIONAL |

Former State House Digital strategist Dennis Itumbi. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Former State House Digital Strategist Dennis Itumbi might have had a role in the forgery of a letter alleging there was a plot to assassinate Deputy President William Ruto, a court has ruled.

In a virtual session, Milimani Law Courts Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku ruled that Itumbi might have impersonated a Cabinet Secretary, who was allegedly lifting the lid on plans to eliminate the DP.

The letter alleged that the meeting was held at La Mada Hotel, off Thika Road in Nairobi.

Itumbi was put on his defense alongside Samuel Gateri, who was to be a star witness in the case, where he is accused of fabricating the letter.

Gateri was initially listed as the State's first witness alongside two Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officers.

However, Gateri later disowned the State claiming he had been coerced to implicate Itumbi. 

The brief ruling by Magistrate Mutuku opened the door for Itumbi to produce a video recording, which, according to him, shows what allegedly transpired during the May 14, 2019 meeting.

“Having analysed the evidence before the court, I find that the Prosecution has proved a case to warrant the accused persons to be placed on their defense,” Mutuku ruled on Wednesday.

Itumbi had, at the start of the case, asked the court to allow him to play the video, though in-camera.

His lawyer Katwa Kigen argued that the case before the court was politically instigated.

Itumbi faced three counts, which are-making a false document, publishing a false statement, and reprogramming his mobile phone.

In the first count, the State claimed Itumbi, on June 20, 2019, drafted a letter knowing it was a fabrication.

“You, Dennis Itumbi, on June 20, 2019, at an unknown place within the Republic of Kenya made a document dated May 30, 2019 purporting to be a genuine document made by a Cabinet Secretary, a fact you knew to be false,” the charge sheet read in part.

Itumbi pleaded not guilty.

On the second count, Itumbi is alleged to have published the letter to cause public havoc. This, the State argued, was despite knowing that the allegations contained in the letter were false.

Two mobile phones confiscated from Gateri after his arrest on July 2, 2019, led detectives to Itumbi.

Earlier, lead-investigator Yvonne Anyango, in a separate application to hold Itumbi, had told the court that after searching the phones, she found that Itumbi had shared the letter containing allegations about a plot to assassinate the DP in a WhatsApp group named Tanga Tanga Movement.

“Pursuant to the perusal of the said-WhatsApp group, the purported letter allegedly emanating from a ‘Cabinet Secretary’ was recovered as having being posted by the respondent (Itumbi) in the said-WhatsApp group on June 20, 2019,” Anyango said.

The court heard that the WhatsApp group, which was created on July 8, 2018, had 256 members, including some governors and MPs.

In a back and forth applications before the lower court, Gateri applied to be removed as a witness in the case, claiming that he had been forced to testify against Itumbi.

“I was under arrest and they told me that they would go ahead and execute me if I did not confirm I had a telephone conversation with Deputy President [William Ruto], and [that] Mr. Dennis Itumbi was my link. They further threatened that they would take me to high-ranking security personnel in Government so that I could be dealt with (sic),” Gateri claimed in his September 2, 2019 application.

“I insisted that I did not know the individuals they were mentioning at a personal level and that I only knew them through social media, and I had never interacted with either of them. Therefore, I could not be of any help to them.”

However, while denying coercing Gateri, the DCI told the court that it had intelligence on a trail of communication in the WhatsApp group allegedly formed to drum up support for Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid.

On Wednesday, the magistrate ordered that their lawyers should tomorrow (September 23, 2021) take a date when the two will appear before the court to give their side of the story.

Itumbi, however, said he will challenge the ruling at the High Court.

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