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ICC pre- hearing of Kenyan lawyer kicks up fresh storm on Hon Ruto

By Our Correspondent in Nairobi.

A fresh storm is unfolding that could soon see the political rivals of Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto having the last laugh in the 2022 transition elections.

Ruto, 56, now engaged in intense campaigns to become Kenya’s fifth President, could be staring at a fresh hurdle thousands of kilometres away.

Top judges at the ICC Hague court have started a pre-chamber hearing in a case against Kenyan lawyer Mr Paul Gicheru who has been on the run for six  years.

Gicheru is accused of interfering with witnesses in the Ruto case, who were forced to recant evidence after being “bribed or intimidated.”

The office of the chief prosecutor at ICC has maintained that the abuse of human rights cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto are still open.

The cases which collapsed 2014-2016 largely over recanted evidence by witnesses, remain on “active files”.

Its not clear why Gicheru sort to surrender even after President Kenyatta had made it clear he would not allow any Kenyan to face trial in a foreign court.

The timing of the move is also suspect coming at a time when Mr  Ruto has made massive gains for the 2022 electoral battle with opposition leader Mr Raila Odinga.

The Gicheru news  sounds like sweet music in the ears of President Uhuru and Odinga who have suffered a string of political and legal defeats at the hands of theWilliam Ruto..

But many political observers and central Kenya residents are not impressed by developments at the ICC.

The Kikuyu in Rift valley say they have long forgiven their former Kalenjin foes and moved on.

They point at the current political support Ruto is enjoying in central Kenya in the 2022 elections as proof for ICC sabotage.

 The Kenyans who include many working in Netherlands are against the case proceeding warning it could open up old wounds and trigger fresh clashes before or after the 2022 polls.

They have pointed at disturbing on-going attacks in Laikipia that have claimed lives, hundreds of families displaced as houses and business are torched.

But the pre-Trial Chamber A,  composed of Judge Reine Adélaïde, and Sophie Alapini-Gansou, says it will go on with its case against Mr Gicheru.

The Chamber says it has “substantial grounds” to believe that Mr Gicheru committed, as a co-perpetrator, or under alternative modes of liability, offences against the administration of justice.

Gicheru is accused of implementing a “common plan” with the ultimate goal of undermining the Prosecution’s case in the Ruto and Sang case.

Specifically, with relation to eight witnesses, Mr Gicheru and other members of the “common plan ” allegedly identified, located, and contacted the witnesses who were to testify against Ruto.

Gicheru allegedly offered and/or paid them financial or other benefits, and/or threatened or intimidated them, in order to induce them to withdraw as Prosecution witnesses, refuse to or cease co-operating with the Prosecution and/or the Court, and/or to recant the evidence which they had provided to the Prosecution.

The arrest warrant against  Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett was issued September 2015. Gicheru surrendered himself to the authorities of The Netherlands and was put under ICC custody on November 3, 2020.

The chamber hearings are proceeding on the basis of Gicheru’s “voluntary surrender” but if charges are confirmed and convicted he could face a seven – year jail term.

The ruling could also likely give the office of the chief prosecutor enough grounds to “review” evidence against Mr Ruto and explore “fresh grounds” for re-opening the abuse of humanity cases.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William  Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang were “indicted” as most responsible for the deadly 2007-08 post election violence that claimed 1350 lives, and displaced 650,000.

Others were then Police boss Mr Hassan Ali, Civil Service head Mr Francis Muthaura, and former Minister Mr Henry Kosgey.

But the cases were dropped one after another until only Uhuru-Ruto remained by 2014 before theirs also collapsed in 2016.

Chief Prosecutor Ms Fatou Bensuda who has since retired, had assured Kenyan relatives of victims of the deadly violence during a visit that “justice would be served.” Bensuda even wept as women recounted events of a church fire that killed 37 mainly women and children ■

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