‘Quest for justice’ made witness record many bribery attempts

Thursday, February 24th, 2022 01:12 | By
Lawyer Paul Gicheru follows proceedings at the start of his trial at the ICC. Photo/Courtesy

Phone recordings were yesterday tabled at the International Criminal Court (ICC) detailing how potential witnesses were pressured into withdrawing from the case against Deputy President William Ruto and Joshua Sang.

A witness identified as P-0613, who recorded conversations with fellow witnesses in the Post-Election Violence case, told the court she did so for the sake of justice to the victims.

Prosecution Counsel Anton Steynberg told trial Judge Miatta Maria Samba that he will convert the recorded materials and their corresponding transcripts and translations into evidence after the witnesses testified.

“The prosecution will tender into evidence the detailed statements you have made concerning, amongst others, all of these conversations and all of the people that you recorded,” Steynberg told the witness.

Key target

The Trial Chamber III of The Hague based court heard that the attempt to influence Witness P-0613 to withdraw her evidence started when she was relocated to a place that could not be disclosed.

A document tabled by the prosecution indicates that the witness became a key target in this case after Meshack Yebei, whom she knew even before 2008, told lawyer Paul Gicheru that she was co-operating with the ICC by providing evidence concerning the PEV and introducing other witnesses to the prosecution.

Yebei, who is believed to have been one of the witnesses lined up to testify by Ruto’s defence team at the ICC, disappeared mysteriously in December 2014 only for his body to be discovered in Voi three months later.

The witness yesterday told the court that once she received a call that people were looking for her, she informed the ICC investigators who advised her to record the conversations.

“I recorded the conversations using my phone and later they gave me a recorder. Nobody put pressure on me, nobody threatened me or coerced me to do the recordings,” she told the court.

“Why did you agree to do the recordings?’ asked the prosecutor.

“Because I wanted justice for the victims of post-election violence and when I saw someone calling me and asking me to be paid, I said I did not need that money, the victims needed that money,” she replied.

The witness confirmed to the court that over the ensuing months, she recorded a number of conversations which were provided to the investigators.

In one of the recordings tabled in court, and which is in the prosecution’s documents, an ICC witness in the Ruto and Sang case told P-0613 that Ruto had instructed Gicheru to bribe prosecution witnesses in exchange for their withdrawal from the case In another phone conversation on May 13, 2013, another witness, who will testify in the Gicheru case identified as P-0516 urged her to withdraw as a prosecution witness in the Ruto and Sang case.

Court documents filed by the prosecution indicate that on June 7, 2013, Yebei tried to contact her. On June 14 and 17, 2013, unknown people sent her SMS trying to organise a meeting with her and made several promises that were however not disclosed by the prosecution.

“After some phone calls, on 21st June 2013, Yebei told her he wanted to meet her and they had two further phone conversations that day and Yebei told her “these people” were seeking witnesses… Yebei continued calling the witness several times in July 2013, he told her they were waiting for the person who was organising the money for their trip to go and see her,” reads the prosecution’s document. In another conversation on July 31, 2013, another unnamed witness in the ICC told her that P-0397 had told her that people were coming out from “those people”, whom she understood to mean that witnesses were abandoning the ICC.

P-0397 warned the said witness that if the third witness did not leave ICC, her life would be in danger.

Upon hearing this, she called Yebei to complain about the “threats” and other matters that were however not disclosed by the prosecution.

The witness was asked about some of the recordings and whether she remembered when she recorded and the details.

Call recordings

In the call recordings, Gicheru is mentioned by several witnesses as being the man behind the bribing of witnesses.

Gicheru is facing eight counts relating to corruptly influencing witnesses regarding cases from the situation in Kenya.

In its opening remarks, the ICC prosecution team told the court that they will prove that Gicheru managed and coordinated a scheme to identify, locate and corruptly influence actual and potential prosecution witnesses.

Ruto and Sang were charged with fomenting ethnic violence after a disputed 2007 election in which 1,200 people died.

“The actions of the accused and his associates, led directly to the withdrawal and recounting of no less than four vital prosecution witnesses in the case,” Steynberg told the court.

The witness will be cross-examined today by Gicheru’s lawyers.

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