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Ruto name dragged into ICC cases, again

Monday, June 27th, 2022 22:39 | By
Lawyer Paul Gicheru joined the ICC chambers through a video link. courtesy
Lawyer Paul Gicheru joined the ICC chambers through a video link. courtesy

Deputy President William Ruto was adversely mentioned at the International Criminal Court during the final arguments of a case where lawyer Paul Gicheru is facing eight counts of witness interference in post-poll violence cases against the DP and journalist Joshua Sang.

The prosecution, led by Anton Steynberg, made a one-hour final case before Judge Miatta Maria Samba of ICC Trial Chamber III linking Gicheru to eight counts he was charged with on February 15. Ruto’s name featured prominently during the submission, with the prosecution claiming he was the main beneficiary of the witness interference charges.

“The prosecution’s evidence, if accepted by the Chamber, clearly establishes that the accused is guilty of all charges ... It proves beyond reasonable doubt the accused’s essential role in the implementation of the witness interference scheme, which was conducted for the benefit of William Samoei Ruto,” claimed Steyberg.

The prosecution, while trying to convince the judge to find Gicheru guilty, claimed it had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt through the eight witnesses who testified and a number of items of evidence, all of which were recognised as formally submitted by the Chamber.

It maintained that some data recovered from Gicheru’s phone were independently corroborated, including Ruto’s contact details, businessman Silas Simatwo, journalist Walter Barasa, Busienei, Njuguna and Mitei. “The ultimate goal of the common plan was to undermine the prosecution’s case against Ruto and Sang by preventing prosecution witnesses from testifying, either at all or in accordance with the evidence given in their previous statements,” the prosecutor argued.

The Hague-based court heard that the people targeted included those having, or believed to have, information relevant to the prosecution in the Ruto and Sang case, such as on post-election violence, and prosecution witnesses P-0341 and P-0274.

The prosecution said Gicheru informed both P-0397 and P-0800 that he was a close friend of Ruto and that they had both attended Kapsabet High School. “Open source evidence confirms that both attended this school ... An analysis of a mobile phone data indicates that Ruto’s number was saved as a contact, and of Simotwo, an influential Kenyan businessman and long-time business associate of Ruto.

“Simotwo was head of the board of directors of Amaco Insurance, a firm Ruto is reported to have close connections as a major shareholder and former co-owner, and which is one of Gicheru’s clients,” claimed the prosecution.

Speculative theories

It stated that Gicheru, through his defence counsels, was not able to present controverting evidence sufficient to raise reasonable doubt and he, therefore, must be convicted. “In this case, the defence has not called any witnesses or produced such evidence, but instead advances speculative theories based on inferences it seeks to draw from the prosecution’s own evidence. However, such inferences are unsupported by acceptable evidence and cannot raise reasonable doubt in the face of credible and corroborated evidence,” it claimed.

The court heard that Gicheru played a leading role in coordinating the activities of members of the Common Plan — assigning tasks, setting priorities, arranging meetings and providing funds for expenses. “Using his law office, centrally located at Veecam House in Eldoret, as an operations centre from which he was able to direct the activities of intermediaries, and corrupted managers leveraged their relationships with other prosecution witnesses to repeat this process,” claimed the Prosecution in its submissions.

It added that individual items of evidence in the case, examined holistically, reveal a clear and consistent pattern of criminality on how Gicheru conspired with other members and associates of the common plan to locate, contact and corruptly influence witnesses and witnesses.

Gicheru, who joined the chambers through a video link, listened to the proceedings attentively, with his lawyers led by Michael Karnaval making a strong appeal to the chamber to acquit him. Karnavas said the prosecution witnesses lied and were inconsistent in their testimonies.

Within one hour, the defence counsel poked holes in the credibility of the eight witnesses who testified against Gicheru.

It claimed the witnesses were of low morals, high desires, and exceptional motivation to do and say whatever it took to hoodwink investigators into providing their financial benefits and relocation out of Africa. “They conducted an irreparably flawed investigation, based on lies, hearsay, and unsubstantiated claims by grifters, opportunists, con-artists, and confabulators of Olympic proportion,” Karnavas claimed in his submissions.

He further said that no effort was made to double-check and verify what witnesses were telling investigators.

“No effort was made to verify telephone evidence. The witnesses admitted to having unrecorded conversations with other OTP witnesses, yet no effort was made to intercept telephones to verify the content of unrecorded conversations,” claimed Karnavas. According to him, the OTP’s investigation was flawed from the outset.

The defence counsel further claimed that Gicheru was not associated with, or a supporter of, Ruto as alleged, neither did the alumni magazine of Kapsabet High School show that Gicheru and Ruto were at school together or were ever associated.

Karnavas concluded by giving the judge a scenario of buying a used car. “You don’t know too much about engines so you’re going to bring somebody along who knows a little bit and will ask some questions to the car salesman ... You see the car, it looks shiny and washed ... rims are shining and you see this clean engine and the salesman is talking and talking and then all of a sudden, you’re friend starts asking questions  ... As he asks questions, he is catching this salesman with little lies and then more lies and then contradictions. After each contradiction or lie, there’s a clarification…Would you, without hesitation, buy that car from the salesman? I dare say no”, he said.

The trial chamber is expected to deliberate on the proceedings and, within a reasonable period, pronounce its decision on conviction or acquittal, pursuant to article 74 of the Rome Statute.

The Chamber bases its decision only on the applicable law and on evidence submitted and discussed before it at the trial.

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