Walter Barasa denied the charges.
The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for a Kenyan charged with trying to bribe witnesses to withdraw testimony against Deputy President William Ruto, the ICC saidon Wednesday.
Walter Barasa, a journalist in Ruto’s political stronghold of Eldoret, northwest of Nairobi, told Reuters he denied the charges and said police had not tried to detain him.
Mr. Ruto, who went on trial at the ICC last month, and President Uhuru Kenyatta are charged separately with orchestrating violence that swept Kenya after contested elections in 2007, in which 1,200 people were killed.
Mr. Kenyatta’s trial starts in November.
Kenya has called for the cases to be dropped or moved closer to home. It has also rallied African support against the ICC, which has until now charged only Africans.
The arrest warrant will test Kenya’s stated commitment to cooperate with the court.
Several witnesses have withdrawn, with prosecutors alleging intimidation.
Other arrest warrants for people trying to disrupt the case could be issued, they said. Defence lawyers deny intimidation or any illegal attempts to influence the trials.
In March, the case against Kenyatta’s co-accused, former civil service head, Francis Muthaura, collapsed after a key witness decided not to testify.
In a court filing, prosecutors said Mr. Barasa had been charged with three counts of influencing or seeking to influence witnesses.
One count alleged he had paid a prosecution witness and her husband $16,200 to withdraw testimony.
The ICC said this was the first case before the court in which a suspect had been charged with an offence against the administration of justice.
“The evidence collected so far indicates that there is a network of people who are trying to sabotage the case against Ruto et al by interfering with prosecution witnesses,’’ ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement, adding that M. Barasa faced a fine, five years in prison or both if found guilty.
“There could be other people that we will issue warrants against,’’ she told a news conference, adding that this would depend on the continuing investigations.
An attempt to have M. Barasa arrested in a third country had failed, she said, without naming the country, adding that it was now up to Kenyan authorities to detain him.
“Sending this warrant to Kenya now is an opportunity for the Kenyan government to demonstrate their cooperation,’’ she said.
Nick Kaufman, Mr. Barasa’s lawyer at the ICC, said he was surprised the arrest warrant had been made public before Mr. Ruto’s lawyers had cross-examined witnesses, because it risked creating the impression it was aimed at influencing the trial.
Mr. Barasa told Reuters by telephone: “I deny any such charges.’’
“I have not gotten in touch with any witnesses or anybody having any intention of asking them or bribing them to pull out of the case,’’ the 38-year-old said.
Mr. Barasa said an ICC investigator had visited him last month and warned him against working with Mr. Ruto, something he denied doing.
Mr. Ruto’s trial resumed on Wednesday, after an adjournment to allow the deputy president to help handle the attack on a Nairobi shopping mall on Sept. 21.
There was no immediate comment from Kenyan police.
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