The trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta will now start on February 5, 2014.
This is after Trial Chamber V(b) Judges Kuniko Ozaki (Presiding), Robert Fremr and Chile Eboe-Osuji vacated the November 12, 2013 start date to give the prosecution additional time to investigate concerns that were raised by Kenyatta regarding three of its witnesses.
Kenyatta had asked for an evidential hearing before the commencement of his trial saying the three witnesses were paid hefty amounts of money by the prosecution to incriminate him and recruit additional witnesses in his case.
The Head of State had also expressed concerns that he would not get a just trial based on these issues and had in addition asked for a February 2014 trial to give him time to investigate new witnesses, brought into his case at the last minute.
“The Chamber accepts the parties’ submissions that a postponement is warranted and vacates the trial date of November 12, 2013. This decision is without prejudice to the Chamber’s views on the other reasons raised by the parties for adjourning the trial,” explained the judges.
The Chamber however urged both the defence and the prosecution to speed up their preparations for the trial noting that there had been previous repeated adjournments.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wanted the trial to start on February 3, 2014 and not a day later while Kenyatta’s team wanted it to start mid February.
The Chamber however noted that neither the prosecution nor the defence provided sufficient reasons why the trial should start on the dates requested.
“The parties disagree as to whether the trial should commence in the first or second full week of February 2014. The Chamber considers that neither party has specifically justified its chosen date in a convincing manner,” read the ruling.
In its application to the court, the prosecution did admit that the concerns raised by Kenyatta merited further investigations which required additional time.
The prosecution also noted that the Chamber had disallowed it to call any Mungiki witnesses before February 2014, leaving it with only four of its first 10 witnesses to call between November 12, 2013 and the end of January if the trial was to start as scheduled.
This decision was made to give the defence adequate time to investigate the Mungiki witnesses.
“The prosecution now faces the prospect of being unable to call the witnesses who are at the heart of the dispute in this case in the three months following the commencement of the trial if that occurs on November 12, 2013,” argued Prosecutor Bensouda in her application.
According to Kenyatta, the three witnesses who he has expressed concern over have also been intimidating his witnesses and he identified them as OTP-118, OTP-11 and OTP-12.
He claims in his suit papers dated October 10, 2013 that he even had phone recordings to show that they have been working in cahoots with the Prosecution to subvert his justice.
He argued that that OTP-118 brought in 10 new prosecution witnesses and even offered them bribes to ensure that they testified against him.
“On 4 April 2013, the Defence was informed that [REDACTED], was acting as an intermediary and had introduced a number of Mungiki witnesses to the Prosecution. Five of these witnesses were: OTP-118, OTP-217, OTP-505, OTP-506, and OTP-510,” said Kenyatta in the application.
“The defence was also informed that [REDACTED] and OTP-118 jointly acted as intermediaries and introduced the following Mungiki witnesses to the Prosecution: OTP-219, OTP-428, OTP-429, OTP-430, OTP-493, and OTP-494.”
OTP-11 and OTP-12 are on the other hand being accused of interfering with Kenyatta’s collection of evidence in addition to attempting to swindle money from him so as to change their testimony against him.
OTP-12 is accused of attempting to find out if Kenyatta would be willing to part with Sh200 million so that he could recant his account.
Kenyatta’s lawyers argue that OTP-11 and OTP-12 were willing to testify for either the prosecution or the defence as long as they made money in the process.