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Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru made his first appearance at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday, November 6.
Gicheru, who was transferred to the ICC’s custody on November 3 after surrendering himself to Dutch authorities on November 2, appeared before Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou of Pre-Trial Chamber A at 16:00 (The Hague local time) i.e. This is around 6 pm EAT.
The judge verified the identity of the suspect and the language in which he is able to follow the proceedings. She then informed Gicheru of the charges against him and of his rights under the ICC Rome Statute.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the hearing was held on a partially virtual basis. Gicheru appeared by video-link technology from the Court’s detention centre.
Gicheru is accused of offences against the administration of justice consisting of corruptly influencing witnesses, in a case against Deputy President William Ruto over the 2007/2008 Post Election skirmishes.
He denied all the six charges, dismissing the allegations read out to him as false.
Key dates for Gicheru’s case
Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou then proceeded to set provisional dates for the case.
Prosecution is expected to file its document containing the charges by 12 February 2021, then the Defence is to file a list of evidence by 26 February 2021.
Both Prosecution and Defence are then to write their written submissions by 15 March 2021; the Prosecution can file its reply to the Defence submissions by 22 March, and the Defence can reply by 29 March 2021.
A criminal scheme
ICC claims that there existed, from at least April 2013, a criminal scheme specifically designed to approach and corruptly influence witnesses of the Prosecutor through bribery and other incentives in exchange for either their withdrawal or recantation of their prior statements to the Prosecutor.
The court says Gicheru was the manager and coordinator of the said scheme, who ICC says “finalised agreements with corrupted witnesses, organised the formalisation of their withdrawal and handled the payment.”
Another Kenyan who is still at large, Philip Kipkoech Bett, who is not in ICC custody is suspected to have been the person who contacted witnesses and making initial proposals before bringing them to the managers, particularly Paul Gicheru.
According to the charges, ICC claims that witness P-397, for example, was promised Kes5 million in exchange of withdrawal as a witness of the Prosecutor.
“There is also information that those witnesses who were successfully corrupted were enticed to make contact with other witnesses, for the purpose of their corruption,” insists ICC.
The 2007/08 violence saw at least 1,300 Kenyans losing their lives, hundreds injured and more than 600,000 displaced.