The International Criminal Court has issued a arrest warrant against a Kenyan journalist for "corruptly influencing or attempting to corruptly influence ICC witnesses".
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the Kenyan Government had received the warrant "for the immediate arrest and transfer of Walter Barasa to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face criminal charges"
"There is evidence to suggest that Walter Barasa tried to bribe someone he thought was a Prosecution witness in the case against (Deputy President William) Mr Ruto," Ms Bensouda said in a statement Wednesday.
She said the Prosecution has conducted a detailed investigation on the allegations of witness interference, a situation that obtains to date.
"The evidence collected so far indicates that there is a network of people who are trying to sabotage the case against Mr Ruto et al. by interfering with Prosecution witnesses. Walter Barasa, against whom compelling evidence has been collected, has been part of this network, and his actions fit into this wider scheme that the Office continues to investigate," the prosecutor said.
Under Article 70 of the Rome Statute, using bribes or threats to influence witnesses to change or recant their testimony is a crime.
If found guilty, Walter Barasa faces up to five years in prison, a fine, or both.
BRIBE THREE WITNESSES
The prosecutor accuses Mr Barasa, a journalist based in Eldoret, of attempting to bribe three witnesses including witness 536.
Witness 536 is the survivor of the Kiambaa Church arson attack and is presently testifying in the case facing Mr Ruto and former radio presenter Joshua arap Sang at The Hague.
She is giving her testimony in private sessions after attempts to expose her identity and intimidate her family.
Ms Bensouda says Mr Barasa offered "to pay her and her husband a total of one million four hundred thousand Kenyan Shillings (KES 1,400,000) in order to influence her to withdraw as a Prosecution witness, committed during the period 20 May to 25 July 2013 and at or near Kampala, Uganda".
He also attempted to corruptly influence witnesses 256 and 336, Ms Bensouda charges.
HAND OVER BARASA
Ms Bensouda said it was her expectation that Kenya would arrest and hand over Mr Barasa for prosecution.
"He will appear before ICC judges on charges of corruptly influencing and attempting to corruptly influence a person he believed to be a Prosecution witnesses," she said.
In response, Attorney General Githu Muigai said the Kenyan courts would decide whether to enforce the arrest warrant.
"The procedure for enforcing any warrant issued by the international criminal court against any individual in Kenya is subject to the very clear procedure set out under the International Crimes Act 2010. These procedures require the minister in charge of the interior upon receipt of the formal warrant of arrest to present the said warrant to the judiciary for enforcement," Prof Muigai said in a statement.
"During the judicial consideration of the legality of the warrant, the subject is entitled to make representations to the court. The final determination on the enforceability of the warrant is therefore a judicial one," he said.
The prosecutor said her office continues to monitor and probe other incidents of witness interference.
Ms Bensouda said the issuance of the arrest warrant should serve as a deterrence to those who may be plotting to obstruct justice.
"The issuance of an arrest warrant in this case should be a warning to others who may be involved in obstructing the course of justice through intimidating, harassing, bribing or attempting to bribe ICC witnesses.
"My Office will continue to do everything it can to ensure that witnesses are able to present their evidence before the Court without fear. Witnesses who have courage to come forward to testify deserve no less," she said.
She praised her witnesses for their "moral courage" to testify in the Kenyan cases.
"Through my Office, I will do all within my power to protect the integrity of our cases and ensure that justice is allowed to run its course unobstructed."
Mr Barasa's arrest warrant was unsealed by Judge Cuno Tarfusser, Single Judge of Pre-Trial Chamber II.
"He is charged with several offences against the administration of justice including corruptly influencing or attempting to corruptly influence ICC witnesses. An under seal warrant of arrest was issued against him on 2 August 2013, " the court said in a statement
"Based on the Prosecutor’s evidence, Judge Tarfusser also found that it is necessary to arrest Walter Osapiri Barasa to ensure his appearance at trial, to ensure that he does not obstruct or endanger the investigation or the proceedings, and to prevent him from continuing with the commission of the crime."
Mr Ruto and Mr Sang are facing charges of murder, persecution and deportation arising from the 2007/08 post election violence.
President Kenyatta trial is scheduled to open on November 12. He faces charges of murder, rape, persecution, deportation and other inhumane acts.
During an initial hearing before ICC Judges, Walter Barasa will be informed of the crimes which he is alleged to have committed and of his rights under the Rome Statute.
His plea will be entered and the Judges will then set a date for a hearing on the charges.
At this subsequent hearing, the Judges will hear submissions from both the Prosecution and Walter Barasa’s Defence on whether his case should go to trial.
If the charges are confirmed, the judges will set a trial date.