September 10, 2015 / 4:25 PM / 5 years ago

ICC announces warrants against two Kenyans for corrupting witnesses

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court on Thursday unsealed, or made public, arrest warrants against two Kenyan men on accusations of “corruptly influencing witnesses” in the east African nation.

The entrance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seen in The Hague March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen

The warrants against Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett were the latest sign of possible witness tampering and obstruction that international prosecutors say has dogged their attempts to operate in Kenya.

A prosecution spokeswoman said the arrests were linked to the case against Kenyan deputy Prime Minister William Ruto.

Ruto has been charged with crimes against humanity together with journalist Joshua Arap Sang for helping orchestrate a wave of deadly violence after Kenya’s contested 2007 presidential election that killed 1,200 people. Both men say they are innocent.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said separately she had completed presenting evidence against Ruto and Sang.

No date has yet been set for the defense to begin presenting its case.

ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah could not be reached in The Hague for comment on when and whether Gicheru and Bett would be extradited. Lawyers for the suspects were unavailable in Nairobi.

The arrest warrants against the two were issued in March but kept sealed, or secret from the public, to ensure they did not attempt to flee or “obstruct or endanger the investigation or court proceedings and to prevent the further exercise of corrupt influence on the witnesses,” the court said.

The men were arrested in Nairobi on July 30.

ICC judges said the witness corruption case should be handled in The Hague in part because they doubted Kenya’s willingness to prosecute Gicheru and Bett.

Judges thought “effective national prosecution was unlikely to take place” due to “the size and extent of organization of the alleged criminal effort to corruptly influence witnesses”.

Prosecutors withdrew charges of crimes against humanity against Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta in December, maintaining they were unable to build their case because of witness tampering and obstruction by Kenyan authorities.

Reporting by Drazen Jorgic and Toby Sterling; editing by Ralph Boulton

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