Witness and defense lawyer disagree on meaning of some political statements

A witness disagreed with one of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto’s lawyers on the correct interpretation of some statements made during political meetings in 2007 and 2008.

Ruto’s lawyer, David Hooper, replayed on Friday videos of political meetings held in early 2008 and asked Witness 268 questions about the location of the meetings, the identify of some of the speakers, and what could be interpreted of the statements made at the meetings. The videos in question had been played on Thursday when prosecutor Lucio Garcia was questioning the witness in his examination-in-chief.

Hooper asked the witness about a statement made in one of the videos, in which the speaker referred to Kikuyus as thieves. Hooper asked the witness whether the reference here was about the then President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, and the Kikuyus around him. Witness 268 disagreed.

“The theft that is being spoken about there is the elections,” Hooper put to the witness, referring to the allegations that the December 2007 presidential poll had been rigged in Kibaki’s favor.

“No,” replied the witness.

Hooper asked him what his interpretation was, and the witness said that, “There are existing prejudices against Kikuyus in the sense that they have been branded thieves.”

Hooper played other videos showing Ruto calling for peaceful protests against the election results of 2007 and Ruto addressing a rally in the western Kenya town of Kapsabet during which he assured people of all ethnic groups that they need not fear being forced out of the Rift Valley region as opponents of Ruto had alleged. Part of Hooper’s questioning of the witness on details of the videos took place in private session.

When the court began the proceedings on Friday, Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji asked all parties to prepare to make submissions on what the trial schedule should be until February. Judge Eboe-Osuji said this was necessary following the decision of Trial Chamber V(b) to postpone the trial of President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta until February next year.

The trial schedule came up for discussion in the afternoon with the prosecution and lawyer for victims in support of taking a recess as previously scheduled on November 8 but returning to court within two weeks after that. Senior trial lawyer Anton Steynberg said that the prosecution had been advised by the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) of the court that they would need two weeks to organize to get witnesses to The Hague.

Steynberg also said that the witnesses the prosecution was likely to call before the holiday recess would testify for a short period each, so it was possible that two or three could testify before the end of the year. He said that the prosecution would not be able to call any witness who would be making direct allegations against either Ruto or former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang because their testimony would require more time than was available before the recess.

Both lawyers for Ruto and Sang opposed resuming the trial before the New Year. Ruto’s lead lawyer, Karim Khan, said that the defense needs time to investigate and prepare for further witnesses and his team had already planned on using the break after November 8 to do that. Khan also said that his team had already made travel plans and had family obligations to fulfill, which is another reason they preferred for the trial to resume in January 2014. Sang’s lead lawyer, Joseph Kigen-Katwa, also said that they had planned to use the break to conduct further investigations and had family issues to attend to.

The judges did not immediately make a decision on the issue. They, however, decided to excuse Ruto from being present in court next week. This was after Khan made an application for Ruto to be allowed to be away from court. Khan made his submission in private session, so it is unclear why Ruto needs to be away from court.

Earlier this week, Sang had sought the court’s permission to be away on Friday so he can attend the graduation of his six year-old daughter. His lawyer Kigen-Katwa explained that the graduation had been rescheduled to Friday at the last minute, which is why Sang was asking to be excused for one day. In a 2-1 decision, Trial Chamber V(a) declined on Thursday to grant Sang’s application.

Hooper began cross-examining Witness 268 on Thursday. He started by taking the witness through maps of the Rift Valley, asking him to identify particular areas. Hooper then asked the witness about some of the details of a report of deaths recorded at the Moi Referral and Teaching Hospital in January 2008. Hooper also questioned the witness about the recent political history of Kenya, particularly the events that followed Kibaki’s first election as president in 2002.

Before Hooper began his cross-examination on Thursday, prosecution lawyer Lucio Garcia concluded his questioning of Witness 268 about some videos. Garcia would ask for the video to be played in open court, and then in private session he would ask the witness about the translation of what was said and other matters. Judges had earlier decided that this would be the procedure for Garcia to lead his examination-in-chief.

Hooper will continue cross-examining Witness 268 on Monday, November 4.

 

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