BAD NEWS AS NEW WITNESS IMPLICATES RUTO IN HAGUE
A witness has directly implicated Deputy President William Ruto in the witness tampering scheme that was largely blamed for the collapse of his crimes against humanity cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Witness P-0341, who is the second prosecution witness in the trial of lawyer Paul Gicheru for corruptly influencing witnesses in the DP Ruto case, told the trial court in The Hague that the bribe money he was given came from and had been approved by Deputy President William Ruto.
In an explosive testimony in an open session – some parts of which were removed in subsequent courtroom videos available to the public – the witness said that while he had demanded Sh20 million, a farm, a plot of land, a car and jobs for his children, the team led by Mr Gicheru was initially only willing to give him Sh500,000.
After much negotiation, the witness claims that his last demand was for Sh5 million but Mr Gicheru reportedly told him that Dr Ruto had only approved Sh2 million and the rest of his demands.
“After our talks with Mr Gicheru, it did not take long, probably just two weeks, when I met him again. I think the two weeks was to brief Mr Ruto because I was later told that he had only approved that I get Sh2 million and a farm, a plot of land and a car,” the witness told the court.
“It was Mr Gicheru who told me that Mr Ruto had approved the money and other things I was to be given,” P-0341 said.
“The person who gave the final approval of what I had demanded was William Ruto,” the witness emphatically added.
Since the trial chamber terminated his case in April 2016, the DP has often said the court had vindicated him of the charges. But former Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that the case had fallen apart because of “a perfect storm of witness interference and intense politicisation of the court’s legal mandate and work”.
In the trial brief in the case against Mr Gicheru, the prosecution says that there was a common plan to corruptly influence witnesses to withdraw from testifying against Mr Ruto.
In the document, the prosecution places DP Ruto at the top while Mr Gicheru, businessman Silas Kibet Simatwo and Isaac Maiyo were the managers. Below them were what the prosecution calls the intermediaries who consisted of the late Meshack Yebei, Philip Kipkoech Bett and Walter Osipiri Barasa.
In his testimony yesterday, the witness says he met Mr Gicheru on several occasions before the lawyer gave him his number so that he could be calling instead of frequently going to his office.
Body of evidence
The witness confirmed having handed over the phone he had been using to call Mr Gicheru to the prosecution investigators for a forensic examination. The contents of the phone, among others, constitute the body of evidence the prosecution is relying on to prove its case against Mr Gicheru.
The witness also said that he was asked to sign a document whose contents was read to him in Mr Gicheru’s office in the presence of another lawyer to the effect that he was ceasing any form of cooperation with the ICC.
Despite having signed the agreement, word reached Mr Gicheru and others that P-0341 was still attending ICC events. He was again asked to write a statement confirming his non-cooperation with the ICC. But he said that some people involved in the witness tampering scheme were so angry with him that one verbally abused him when they learnt that he had travelled to meet prosecution investigators.
In the pre-trial brief, the prosecution says that even though P-0341 was not a prosecution trial witness against Mr Ruto, “he was regarded by Gicheru as a person possessing information relevant to the proceedings before the Court, and in particular information detrimental to Ruto”, thus the motivation to stop him from cooperating with the ICC.
Approached by different individuals
“From 2011 onwards, P-0341 was approached at several PEV (post-election violence) victims’ meetings by different individuals who promised Ruto’s financial assistance if he withdrew from the ICC process,” the prosecution says in the trial brief.
The witness is one of those who have been protected from self-incrimination during their testimony. The first witness P-0800 also received similar treatment to allow him to speak freely.