International Criminal Court (ICC) Trial Chamber III Judge Maria Samba direction that witness P-0800 should take the witness stand marked the start of the prosecution’s case against lawyer Paul Gicheru.
The ICC prosecution’s case is that Gicheru and a team he allegedly led had sought, given promises, bribed and threatened witnesses for two years.
In November 2020, the Kenyan lawyer surrendered himself to the court.
P-0800 is the first witness who presented his testimony against Gicheru today (Tuesday, Feb15).
The witness said the thirst to find justice for victims of the 2007-2008 election violence prompted him to reveal the plot to tamper with witnesses.
According to this witness, the case against Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang was an important one, adding that he dreaded seeing the case collapse due to witnesses tampering.
“I did not want the case which was important to victims of post-election violence collapse like that because of witness bribery,” the witness stated.
According to the prosecution, P-800 claimed that P-0540 and P-0579 approached him.
P-800 narrated to the prosecution that P-540 told him that he had been offered Sh1.5 million.
The witness claimed that P-0540 told him that ‘the big man’ wanted to offer him an equal amount of money to withdraw from the case.
According to senior trial lawyer Anton Steynberg, P-0800 and P-0540 used to refer to DP Ruto as the big man.
“P-0540 told me that the money to pay me and others was coming from Ruto and the money would be coming via Eldoret lawyer Gicheru. P-0540 told me that Gicheru, Simotwo, who I think is in charge of Amaco Insurance (which I think is owned by Ruto) and an ex-ambassador Stephen Tarus are all working for Ruto to locate Kenyan witness,” P-0800 evidence presented by Steynberg read in part.
The court heard that it was P-0579 who took P-0800 to Gicheru.
The witness’s voice had been distorted and his face blurred for his security.
At the same time, the locations and persons involved had been redacted to ensure that he would not be identified.
P-0800 is claimed to have been offered between Sh1.5 million and Sh2.5 million. This was in July 2013.
The witness claimed that he was first called on the phone by a ‘person two’ and a physical meeting was arranged. According to him, he then met with person two in person.
In the meantime, he had informed ICC prosecutor that persons who wanted him to recant his evidence had approached him and made an offer.
The witness testified that the prosecutors directed him to record all conversations.
He narrated that the condition for the bribe was to recant his evidence, promise not to appear before the court and not to collaborate with the prosecutor whenever he was required to do so.
In this 2013 video, Mr Ruto arrives at The Hague for his case.
Lawyer Gicheru faces eight counts of corruptly influencing prosecution witnesses.
He faces charges of soliciting and inducing claims, offering to pay bribes and other financial benefits, paying actual bribes and issuing threats for witnesses to withdraw their cases. He is also accused of couching witnesses.
Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart, in his opening statement, claimed that Ruto and Sang’s case was beset with witness tampering from the onset.
“In dismissing the charges between those two accused, the judges in the majority and minority of the trial chamber condemned the level of witness interference which made it impossible for the chamber to ascertain the truth,” he said.
According to the prosecutor, witness tampering commenced early in 2013 and continued throughout the trial.
Justice Maria heard that there was direct perpetration, co-perpetration to a common plan, ordering, soliciting or inducing witnesses to withdraw from the Ruto-Sang case, aiding or abetting a crime and contributing to the commission of a crime by a group.
“The common plan group comprised a number of persons who undertook specific roles. Some, including the accused, fulfilled the role of managers who organised the activities of other common plan members, arranged financing and negotiated bribe amounts with witnesses who were corruptly influenced,” Steynberg who took a cue from Stewart said.
According to Steynberg, the intermediaries in the group were involved in locating and contacting witnesses and persuading them to meet the managers while the associates contributed to the commission of crimes.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto faced crimes against humanity cases at the ICC following the 2007/2008 post-election violence in which over a thousand lives were lost.
President Uhuru was later acquitted.
In April 2016, The ICC terminated Ruto and Sang’s case. This is different from being acquitted.
A judgment of acquittal means that an accused person has been found to be not guilty of the crimes charged against him or her. In many jurisdictions, including before the ICC, such a finding may prevent the future prosecution of the accused again for the same crimes.
But, in terminating the case against Ruto and Sang, it was made clear that they could be prosecuted afresh in the future.
Ruto and Sang faced three crimes against humanity- murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population, and persecution, allegedly committed during the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya
Trial Chamber V(A) by majority decided to terminate the case.
The presiding Judge Eboe-Osuji was of the view that there was evidence that suggested that witnesses had been interfered with and therefore it was justified to leave open the opportunity to re-prosecute the accused.