The case against Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru drew closer to its conclusion, with both the prosecution and the defence presenting their final statements at the International Criminal Court on June 27, 2022.
Anton Steynberg, who appeared for the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), accused Gicheru’s lawyers of deflecting the real issues while at the same time raising “imaginary and irrelevant” criticism of the investigations and witness preparation.
He further claimed that the defence had adopted a flawed approach to the assessment of the evidence and indulged in “piecemeal” examination of individual witnesses and documents, and had also ignored the combined effect of the mutual corroborating body of incriminating evidence.
“This evidence stands uncontroverted by any defence witnesses… none of this detracts from the compelling evidence that is before the chamber,” Steynberg told Trial Chamber III’s Judge Miatta Maria Samba, adding that it proved that Gicheru is guilty of all the eight counts he is accused of.
Defence counsel Michael Karnavas countered the claims, accusing the prosecution of attempting to misdirect and influence the court by glancing over its “inadequacies and failures”.
Gicheru, who attended the session via video link, is facing charges of corruptly influencing witnesses in the main case against Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang in the situation in Kenya.
The prosecution criticised the defence for asking the court to reject the evidence of its witnesses because of “exaggerated” past credibility issues and instead buy into “speculative conspiracy theories”.
Steynberg dismissed the defence’s criticism of the strength of the prosecution’s case on grounds such as “the prosecution witnesses are liars”, “my client was framed”, and “it’s all a conspiracy”.
The prosecution further accused the defence of tailoring its case to fit the evidence by not making any opening statements and declining to mount a defence to counter the witnesses’ testimony.
In response, Karnavas told the court that the defence had relied exclusively on the disclosed material from the OTP.
“There were no tricks, no surprises, and no new evidence…How is this supposed tailoring we engaged in compromising the OTP in presenting its case or negatively impacting its burden of proof obligation?” he asked.
Karnavas was scathing in his assessment of the OTP’s case, referring to it as being awash with lies, conjectures, innuendo, assumptions, gaps, and unverifiable hearsay – “…the product of a shabby, amateurish, and result-determinative investigation, that, from the outset, was dependent on and became wedded to individuals with low morals, high desires, and exceptional motivation” for financial gain.
“The OTP has not met its burden of proof as shown herein and when the entire record of all admitted evidence is carefully scrutinised and properly assessed,” the defence counsel added.
The prosecution disagreed, saying it was confident that the evidence it had presented would establish that Gicheru is guilty of the charges of offences against the administration of justice, specifically of corruptly influencing witnesses through bribery, intimidation, or a combination of both; as a direct perpetrator and/or as a co-perpetrator; or alternatively by soliciting or inducing or by aiding, abetting, or assisting in the commission of the offences.
After the parties had concluded their statements, Judge Samba said she would deliberate on the proceedings. She is expected to announce a date in the future when she will announce her verdict, either convicting or acquitting Gicheru.
The lawyer pleaded not guilty to all eight counts during the opening of his trial on February 15, 2022. The prosecution completed presenting its evidence on March 29, 2022 after calling eight witnesses, who were all cross-examined by the defence. The defence announced on April 25, 2022, that it would not present any evidence.
Gicheru surrendered to the Dutch authorities on November 3, 2020. His first appearance before the court was on November 6, 2020. The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber A confirmed the charges against him on July 15, 2021, and committed him to trial.