Arusha, January 10, 2015 (FH) – International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has denied any involvement in the murder of Kenyan defence witness Meshak Yebei, adding that the prosecution had evidence he was corrupt.

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Yebei was a defence witness in the ICC trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang.

In a statement issued Friday, the Prosecutor’s office said it wished to “address recent speculation alleging the involvement of the Office in Mr. Yebei's tragic demise.  The Office of the Prosecutor wishes to categorically state that any suggestion that the Office of the Prosecutor was involved in Mr. Yebei's alleged abduction and murder is both outrageous and utterly false.  Nothing could be further from the truth”.

Whilst recognizing it had contacted Yebei in the course of its investigations, the prosecution said it had decided not to include him as a prosecution witness “due to, amongst other reasons, information indicating that Mr. Yebei was deeply implicated in the scheme to corrupt Prosecution witnesses in the case against Mr. Ruto and Mr. Sang”.

“Prosecution witnesses in this case have been under siege,” says the statement. “The Office of the Prosecutor has identified a network of individuals who have been working together to sabotage the Prosecution's case against Messrs. Ruto and Sang, by using bribes and/or threats to either dissuade witnesses from testifying in this case or influence Prosecution witnesses to recant their testimony.”

On August 2, 2013, the Court issued an arrest warrant for Walter Osapiri Barasa for witness tampering, in violation of the Statute of Rome, the ICC’s founding treaty. The suspect has not yet been handed over to the Court.

Meshack Yebei disappeared on December 28, 2014. On January 4, his mutilated body was found in a river in Nandi county, some 300 km west of the capital Nairobi.

Ruto’s defence lawyer Karim Khan said Yebei was a “critical witness” for the defence.

The trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang opened before the ICC in September 2013. The two men are accused of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in deadly violence that followed elections at the end of 2007.