Poverty pushed me to recant, witness tells ICC

Friday, March 18th, 2022 10:31 | By

The seventh witness in the trial of lawyer Paul Gicheru at The Hague yesterday detailed how he was bribed in order to recant his testimony in the Deputy President William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang post-election violence case.

The witness, P-0516, had given a statement to the prosecution providing linkage evidence, which connected Ruto and Sang to the 2008 post-election violence.

However, on July 6, 2014, when he was scheduled to attend a meeting with court officials regarding his testimony, he failed to do so and cut off all communication.

He only attended the ICC court through summons during which he renounced his previous statements to the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP), which had implicated Ruto and Sang.

Yesterday, the witness claimed he was offered around Sh500,000 by Gicheru to withdraw from the case. When he was asked why he accepted the money, the witness said he did so because of poverty.

 “The place where I come from, we are known to be very poor. When the offer was floated, I just accepted,” he told the court.

He also told the court another witness whose testimony was allowed in court despite not being available to testify introduced him to Gicheru. The court heard that the unavailable witness identified as P-0397 was his neighbour and was used by Meshack Yebei to introduce him to lawyer Paul Gicheru.

The prosecution argues that Yebei asked the witness P-0397 to talk to the said witness because  he was not on good terms with him.

Yebei disappeared mysteriously in December 2014 only for his body to be discovered in Voi, Taita Taveta County three months later. 

OTP protection

The witness told Judge Miatta Maria Samba yesterday that when Yebei disappeared and was found dead, he sought protection from OTP.

“I asked for protection because after his death, we got rumours that people are looking for us,” said the witness.

“What were these rumours about?” asked the prosecution.

“The rumours were that the witnesses were being pursued so that they could be killed. Unfortunately, we didn’t know who was behind the killing of witnesses in the Ruto and Sang case,” replied the witness.

The witness told the court that he met Gicheru at his Eldoret office after P-0397 took him there. Later on, upon Gicheru’s invitation, he went to see him in his office again, alone and he agreed to pay him Sh800,000 so that he could withdraw as an ICC witness.

The court heard that Gicheru  met with P-0516 approximately four times and paid him at least Sh500,000.

In one of the meetings Gicheru is said to have asked the witness whether he knew other people like him, which  meant other prosecution witnesses. 

The witness claimed that a law firm, not named,  prepared an affidavit on his behalf for his withdrawal from ICC but he did not  go through with the withdrawal as he got scared.

Cross-examination commences today.

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