ICC wants Kenyan arrested over witness ‘bribery’

Among the witnesses who were allegedly offered bribes is P0536 - who is the first to testify against Ruto and his co accused Joshua arap Sang/FILE

Among the witnesses who were allegedly offered bribes is P0536 – who is the first to testify against Ruto and his co accused Joshua arap Sang/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 2 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a warrant for the arrest of activist Walter Osapiri Barasa, accusing him of bribing Prosecution witnesses with between Sh1mn and Sh1.5mn for them to withdraw their evidence in the case against Deputy President William Ruto.

Among the witnesses who were allegedly offered bribes is P0536 – who is the first to testify against Ruto and his co accused Joshua arap Sang.

A document from the ICC shows that she was offered Sh1.4 million to recant her evidence while another witness only identified as P0336 was offered between Sh1 million and Sh1.5 million to pull out.

The 41-year old former journalist is also accused of organising a meeting where another witness, only identified as P0256, could be bribed in order to withdraw her evidence.

Judge Cuno Tarfusser issued the warrant against Barasa on August 2 but it was unsealed on Wednesday. The court wants him arrested to ensure that he does not obstruct justice any further.

“Walter Barasa is criminally responsible as a direct perpetrator for the crime of corruptly influencing or, alternatively, attempting to corruptly influence witnesses by offering to pay them to withdraw as ICC Prosecution witnesses in the context of the Kenyan cases before the ICC,” said the judge.

Barasa is accused of committing the crimes on diverse dates between May 20 and July 21 this year but he has vehemently denied the accusations saying that an official from the court has been threatening him.

Speaking to Capital FM News, he said that he was not afraid of being arrested because he had nothing to hide.

“That man was telling me to accept that I am being used by Ruto to get to witnesses but I told him that I have never even met the Deputy President. So I told him to go and issue that warrant of arrest but I’m on my way to Nairobi (from Eldoret) to come and address a press conference,” he said.

“I have not committed any crime and I did not play any role in the post election violence so I will not hide myself. I am coming to Nairobi.”

The judge said that the Prosecution had provided sufficient evidence to show that Barasa corruptly influenced Prosecution witnesses and has been working in cahoots with other officials within the Kenyan administration.

Barasa, who is also an activist in Eldoret, becomes the first suspect to be charged by the court with an offence against the administration of justice.

He faces three counts – two accusing him of corruptly influencing a witness while the third accuses him of attempting to corruptly influence a witness.

The Office of the Prosecutor has time and again expressed concern that its witnesses were being threatened and coerced to withdraw their accounts in the Kenyan cases.

“Allegedly, he has been and is still acting in furtherance of a criminal scheme devised by a circle of officials within the Kenyan administration,” observed Judge Tarfusser.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants Barasa to be arrested immediately and transferred to The Hague-based court for prosecution.

Barasa faces up to five years in prison, a fine, or both if he is found guilty.

“There is evidence to suggest that Walter Barasa tried to bribe someone he thought was a Prosecution witness in the case against Mr Ruto,” said Bensouda.

“We expect Kenyan authorities to arrest Walter Barasa and hand him over to the court.”

Barasa previously worked as a journalist for the Daily Nation before joining the People Daily.