x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

ICC charges Kenyan with bribing witnesses in Ruto case

Court issues arrest warrant for Kenyan charged with trying to bribe witnesses to withdraw testimony in case against deputy president William Ruto.

AMSTERDAM / NAIROBI // The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for a Kenyan citizen charged with trying to bribe witnesses to withdraw testimony in a case against Kenyan deputy president William Ruto.

The suspect, Walter Barasa, a journalist in Mr Ruto’s political stronghold of Eldoret, said he denied the charges and said police had not tried to detain him.

Mr Ruto, whose trial began last month, and president Uhuru Kenyatta, are charged separately with orchestrating violence in Kenya after contested elections in 2007 and in which 1,200 people were killed. Mr Kenyatta’s trial starts in November.

Kenya has called for the cases to be dropped or moved closer to home. It has also rallied African support against the court, which has until now charged only Africans. The arrest warrant will test Kenya’s stated commitment to cooperate with the court.

Several witnesses have withdrawn, with prosecutors alleging intimidation and defence lawyers denying it. In March, the loss of an important witness led to the collapse of the case against Mr Kenyatta’s co-accused, the former civil service chief Francis Muthaura.

Prosecutors said Mr Barasa had been charged with three counts of corruptly influencing or seeking to corruptly influence witnesses.

One count charged that he had paid a prosecution witness and her husband 1.4 million shillings (Dh59,000) to withdraw testimony. Mr Barasa faced up to five years in prison, or a fine, or both if found guilty, she said.

A court spokesman said Kenyan authorities had been informed about the warrant.

Mr Barasa has denied the charges.

“I have not gotten in touch with any witnesses or anybody having any intention of asking them or bribing them to pull out of the case,” he said.

Mr Ruto’s trial resumed on Wednesday, after an adjournment to allow the deputy president to handle issues related to the Al Shabab attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall on September 21.

* Reuters