Kenya: Lawyer Says Ruto Witnesses Lured By Cash

Claims that money and substantial benefits provided incentive for testimony are denied in court.

Witnesses were lured with huge amounts of money to give false testimony against Kenya's deputy president, a lawyer acting for the defendant told judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week.

Karim Khan, who is representing William Ruto in his trial for crimes against humanity in The Hague, claimed that the ninth prosecution witness, in court this week, was among several individuals paid by international organisations to lie to prosecutors about his client.

Testifying for a second week in The Hague, the protected witness admitted to receiving over half a million Kenyan shillings (6,000 US dollars) from a local NGO funded by the United States' Agency for International Development (USAID). He also said he had received money directly from the ICC.

These funds were to pay for housing and other benefits under the court's witness protection programme, he said.

The witness maintained that he had never lied about Ruto, who is being tried at the ICC on charges of orchestrating the bloodshed that engulfed Kenya in the aftermath of a disputed presidential election six years ago.

More than 1,100 people lost their lives and 3,000 others were injured in two months of political and ethnic violence that erupted after the December 2007 polls.

Prosecutors allege that Ruto put together a network of influential leaders who planned to forcibly expel supporters of their political opponents, the Party of National Unity (PNU), from the Rift Valley province.

Ruto is charged alongside former journalist Joshua Arap Sang with crimes relating to the period after PNU candidate Mwai Kibaki was elected president for a second term.

Both men face charges of murder, persecution and forcible population displacement.

Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, is facing trial on charges relating to the same post-election violence, but his case is yet to start.

Khan told the court that an unnamed organisation had recruited witnesses on behalf of the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor (OTP).

"Over a period of two days you received an equivalent of more than 600,000 Kenyan shillings. Didn't you?" Khan asked the witness.

"Yes, your honour, I received," the witness replied.

Khan noted that the witness' annual earnings amounted to less than 100,000 shillings (1,150 dollars).

"Yes, Your Honour," the witness said.

Khan said that in total, over a period of six months, the witness received 20,000 dollars, 1.7 million Kenyan shillings, from the ICC for upkeep and other benefits.

He put it to the witness that receiving these funds for housing and benefits was "a major reason" why the witness decided to testify for the prosecution.

"No, Your Honour," the witness replied. "I didn't even know that I'd be moving from one place to the other."

Khan went on to name local and international NGOs, including Kenyan activists, who were providing protection for victims and witnesses of the electoral violence in Kenya. The groups he mentioned included the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, the Coalition against Torture, the Anti-Torture Campaign Network, the Kalenjin Youth Alliance and Good Samaritan International.

Khan also put it to the witness that the former United States ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, used USAID funds to support witnesses, also with the intention of implicating Ruto in the violence.

"Did you ever hear that the USAID was particularly focused in trying to get evidence against Mr William Ruto?" asked Khan.

"No, Your Honour," replied the witness.

Khan then put it to the witness that Ranneberger hired several individuals to falsely incriminate Ruto.

"Are you aware that people including Abubakar Juma, Ken Wafula, Persons No. 12, 13 and 15 knew completely well that the stories they were receiving from individuals regarding Mr William Ruto were false but they took those accounts because of money?"

"I am not aware," said the witness.

Ruto's defence also accused the witness of having tried to illegitimately claim money from the ICC.

Khan presented what he said were false hotel receipts which he alleged the witness used to claim money from the court. The witness denied that the handwriting on the receipts was his.

Khan said the ICC refused to pay the money which the witness claimed.

"And that is the receipt you presented to the officials of the ICC in an attempt to be reimbursed for the amount of money on that date. Did you do that?" Khan said at one point.

"I don't recall doing that, Your Honour," the witness replied.

The trial adjourned on January 31 and will resume on February 17.

In another development in The Hague this week, the presiding judge in the Kenyatta case stepped down.

Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji from Nigeria will be replaced by Judge Geoffrey A. Henderson from Trinidad and Tobago.

Eboe-Osuji had made repeated requests to the court's presidency to be removed from the bench in the Kenyatta case, as he also presides over the Ruto and Sang case.

"The cases are big and the issues in them are many," the judge said in his submission. "It is important that I am left to concentrate my fullest attention to that joint trial."

Eboe-Osuji is also on the bench set to hear a case against a Sudanese rebel which starts in May.

The presidency had denied his request on two previous occasions in September and October, because of a lack of judges at the court. But it sanctioned the switch following Henderson's appointment in December.

There will be a court meeting on February 5 in the Kenyatta case to decide on a request from the prosecutor to delay the case by three months.

The author is an IWPR reporter in Nairobi.

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