A witness in the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang said he decided against testifying in The Hague because he had second thoughts about giving evidence.
Witness 637 told the court on Tuesday three people, who were not named in open court, had coached him to implicate Ruto and Sang on the promise that they would pay him once he testified before the ICC. The witness said the coaching took place in September 2011. He told the court the three people belonged to an organization that also was not named in open court. The witness began giving his testimony on Monday via video link from an undisclosed location in Nairobi.
The witness, judges, and lawyers do not name in open court places, people, and organizations that could identify the witness. Instead they refer to them by pseudonyms allocated on a protected information sheet. This is one of the measures the court has ordered to protect the witness’s identity.
Trial lawyer Alice Zago asked the witness if he knew what the motive of the three people was to implicate Ruto and Sang at the ICC. Witness 637 said he did not know. Zago asked him whether he asked them why they wanted Ruto and Sang implicated at the ICC. He said he never asked them. She asked him why then he went along with their plan. The witness said they offered him a lot of money. In answer to another question he said the three people told him he would be paid once he had given his testimony at the ICC.
“Why did you not testify then?” asked Zago.
“I thought twice. I asked myself, should money really drive me to give false testimony just to get rich?” replied Witness 637. “I decided I should not come to court to give false testimony.”
Ruto and Sang are on trial at the ICC for their alleged roles in the violence that followed the December 2007 presidential poll in Kenya. They each face three counts of crimes against humanity.
Earlier Witness 637 identified the statement he gave to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in June 2012. He remembered his interview ran from June 18 to June 22, 2012. Later, the issue of audio recordings of that interview and the accompanying transcripts came up for discussion. Zago told the court that in total the prosecution had 28 audio files of the interview with Witness 637 and a corresponding 28 transcripts. Essa Faal, who represents Ruto, told the court that the Ruto defense did not question the authenticity of the audio recordings. Sang’s lawyer, Caroline Buisman, said the Sang team also did not question the authenticity of the recordings.
Witness 637 told the court that during the interview prosecution staff would stop the recording, leave the interview room, and have a discussion. He said they would then return to the interview room and tell him he had to implicate Ruto and Sang.
“Did these persons tell you, you had to say anything else in particular?” asked Zago.
“The only thing they told me was to confirm the names of Ruto and Sang. It was these two who were supposed to appear as the leaders and the others were merely to follow them,” replied Witness 637.
“Were you told to say anything else in addition to what you have just mentioned?” continued Zago.
“They did not tell me anything else,” the witness responded.
Zago also asked the witness about a rally he attended in December 2007 at a location that was not named in open court. She also asked the witness about whether he saw any violence in the area he was living once the presidential election results were declared on December 30, 2007. The witness did see some teenagers he knew burned down houses using small bottles filled with petrol. Zago also asked him whether he attended any meetings where the issue of violence was discussed. The witness said he had. Zago’s follow-up questions were asked in private session.
The witness also told the court about a statement made by Raila Odinga, who was the main challenger to the then incumbent President Mwai Kibaki. Witness 637 said that on at least two occasions, weeks before voting day in December 2007, Odinga warned there would be bloodshed if his party, the Orange Democratic Movement party, did not win and the election was rigged. The witness said this caused a lot of tension among the Kikuyu who lived where he resided.
Witness 637 will continue testifying on Wednesday.