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ICC confirms charges against lawyer Gicheru

NATIONAL
By Kamau Muthoni | July 16th 2021

Lawyer Paul Gicheru during an interview with The Standard.[Stafford Ondego,Standard]

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has confirmed charges against Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru.

ICC Pre-Trial Chamber A has set the next stage for the lawyer to stand trial over alleged influencing of eight witnesses who were to testify against Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang. 

Gicheru is accused of tampering with witnesses P-0274, P-0341, P-0397, P-0495, P-0516, P-0536, P-0613 and P-0800.

Justice Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou found that the evidence produced by prosecution supports the charges. “The chambers hereby confirms charges against Mr Gicheru as articulated by the prosecutor in the DCC and to the extent that the chamber considers them sufficiently supported by evidence as follows and commits him for trial on these confirmed charges,” the judge ruled.

Justice Gansou said Gicheru knew what he was doing but in his defense, Gicheru asserted he was serving a client as a lawyer.

“On the basis of the above analysis, the chamber finds substantial grounds to believe that Mr Gicheru meant to engage in his conduct and was aware that his role was essential to the implementation of the common plan, and that due to the essential nature of his tasks, he would have frustrated its implementation by refusing to activate the mechanisms that led to the commission of the offences,” Justice Gansou said.

The decision on the confirmation of the charges only serves to determine whether the prosecutor’s case should proceed to trial.

At the heart of the trial is witnesses who recanted their evidence against Ruto and Sang at the ICC on claims that they were offered kickbacks of between Sh500,000 and Sh2 million.

Former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda claims that witnesses admitted meeting Gicheru and were offered money to withdraw as prosecution witnesses and some relocated from their homes. She claimed there was a ranking process that determined how much one was to be paid.

Gicheru surrendered to ICC last year after an arrest warrant issued by The Hague-based court over claims of witness interference.

According to Bensouda, one witness, P-0274, narrated that Gicheru informed them that they needed to reach and buy out everyone involved to stop assisting ICC.

She claimed that P-0274, alongside P-0341, attended victims’ public meeting at the beginning of the Ruto and Sang case. Both witnesses are alleged to have criticised Ruto.

According to her, P-0341 was tasked to influence P-0274 and he was supposed to rope in P-0536.

She claims that P-0341’s bank statements showed he received large installments of money. She adds that ICC investigators planned to meet this witness in 2014 but he declined, saying he was scared.

Provides corroboration

Other witnesses, P-0540 and P-0536, are alleged to have implicated Gicheru as the overall coordinator of the bribery machine. According to Bensouda, P-0536 is alleged to have received her payment through P-0540. The outgoing prosecutor claims that P-0536 was offered a bribe of between Sh1.4 million and Sh1.6 million.

“P-0536’s evidence is corroborated by conversations with P-0540. These constitute independent and reliable evidence that on behalf of Gicheru, P-0540 offered P-0536 a bribe of between Sh1.4 million and Sh1.6 million to withdraw as a prosecution witness. These allegations are further supported by P-0800’s evidence and his conversations with P-0540,” Bensouda says.

The prosecutor also claims that P-0495 was coached to lie by lawyers on behalf of Gicheru.

Court documents filed by the prosecutor say that this witness told investigators that he was supposed to meet Gicheru after accepting to withdraw, but did not speak to him all through. According to her, the witness only dealt with P-0800.

The prosecutor claims that on September 13, 2013, P-0800 called P-0495 over a meeting with P-0613 and asserted that “those people” were waiting for him (P-0613) “to go there”.

“This exchange provides corroboration for the fact that P-0495 had in fact spoken with the people who were bribing him to withdraw, contrary to his claims to the investigators.

“The reality is that P-0495 said he expected P-0613 only after being confronted by OTP investigators with (redacted evidence) that showed he had already accepted a bribe to withdraw as a witness and was trying to corrupt P-0613 to do the same,” the prosecutor added.

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