Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru has pleaded not guilty to charges of offences against the administration of justice before the International Criminal Court.
He appeared before Trial Chamber III’s Judge Miatta Maria Samba on February 15, 2022 at the opening of his trial in which he is facing eight counts of corruptly influencing witnesses regarding cases from the situation in Kenya.
He is represented by Michael Karnavas. The defence did not make any statements at the beginning of the proceedings, but said it will cross-examine the prosecution’s first witness on Wednesday 16, 2022
“The prosecution brings this case against Paul Gicheru to protect the integrity of the court’s proceedings from offences against the administration of justice, to punish those responsible and deter future offenders. We seek to preserve and strengthen public confidence in the court and the expectations of those who look to the court to establish the truth and deliver justice,” ICC Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart said in his opening statement.
He told the court that the prosecution team has enough evidence linking Gicheru to witness interference with the ultimate goal of undermining the main case against Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang.
“The evidence gathered in the investigation will show that the accused managed and coordinated a scheme to identify, locate, and corruptly influence actual and potential prosecution witnesses. This was done through a combination of bribery and intimidation,” Stewart said, adding that the actions led to the withdrawal and recanting of four vital prosecution witnesses.
The efforts against two other witnesses failed when they reported to the prosecution the attempts to influence them, he further said.
The prosecution linked the witness tampering scheme, which it said started in early 2013 and continued throughout the Ruto and Sang trial, to the disappearance and presumed death of a prosecution witness, who was not named in the statement, and the murder of prospective defence witness and “former prosecution intermediary”, Meshack Yebei.
Terming the Gicheru trial “an important step towards holding those responsible for witness interference in the Kenya cases accountable for their actions and achieving some measure of retribution on behalf of the victims who were denied justice”, the Deputy Prosecutor urged the Kenyan authorities to surrender to the ICC two other suspects for whom arrest warrants have been issued for the offences of witness interference.
“Those who would seek to undermine the court’s ability to provide redress for the victims of mass atrocities cannot be allowed to prevail. They must be held accountable,” he said.
The prosecution called its first witness, P-0800, who confirmed being contacted by phone and in person, and asked to accept a bribe in order to recant evidence and not testify.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan has recused himself from the Kenya situation. He was Ruto’s counsel during his trial at the ICC.
Walter Osapiri Barasa, whose arrest warrant was issued in August 2013, is facing three counts of offences against the administration of justice consisting in corruptly influencing or attempting to corruptly influence three ICC witnesses regarding cases from the situation in Kenya.
Initially, the court had issued an arrest warrant for Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett in March 2015. However, Pre-Trial Chamber A severed the two cases in December 2020, when Gicheru surrendered himself to the court.
According to submissions the prosecution made before the court in the run-up to the opening of the trial, Gicheru was among the common plan team, including the role of one of the managers who organised the activities of the common plan members, arranged financing, and negotiated bribe amounts with witnesses. The prosecution said the intermediaries (Barasa, Yebei, and Bett) were responsible for locating and contacting witnesses, and persuading them to meet with the common plan managers to be bribed or intimidated. Ten other associates identified and convinced witnesses to withdraw from the case.
Gicheru surrendered to the Dutch authorities on November 2, 2020 and made his first appearance before the court on November 6, 2020. He was released under specific conditions restricting liberty on February 1, 2021.
On July 15, 2021, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber A confirmed the charges of offences against the administration of justice brought by the Prosecutor against Paul Gicheru and committed him to trial.
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