Kenya ICC witness Meshack Yebei 'implicated in corruption'

Meschak Yebei with his son in Kenya
Image caption Meschak Yebei was killed on a visit to see his son and pregnant wife

A man found dead in Kenya who was linked to the trial of Deputy President William Ruto was implicated in efforts to corrupt witnesses, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has said.

Prosecutors reiterated they had not been planning to call the man, Meshack Yebei, as a witness because of this.

Mr Yebei's body was found in western Kenya earlier this month.

His lawyer said he would have been a witness for Mr Ruto, who denies charges of crimes against humanity.

Mr Ruto was charged over violence which erupted after the 2007 elections in Kenya.

He is the most senior government official to be tried by The Hague-based court since its formation more than a decade ago.

The ICC dropped similar charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta last month, alleging that prosecution witnesses had been intimidated and had changed their testimony.

Mr Kenyatta said he was innocent and the prosecution had no case against him.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption William Ruto denies orchestrating some of the violence that followed disputed elections in 2007

Prosecutors said Mr Yebei had been "deeply implicated" in efforts to corrupt prosecution witnesses in the case against Mr Ruto and another defendant, Joshua Sang.

They described the witnesses as being "under siege" from "a network of individuals" using bribes or threats to dissuade them from testifying.

'Shocking' attack

The prosecutors also said that any suggestion they had been involved in Mr Yebei's abduction and murder was "outrageous and utterly false".

Mr Ruto's lawyer Karim Khan earlier wrote to the head of Kenya's Criminal Investigation Department, saying Mr Yebei had been a "critical witness" who had been referred to the ICC's Victims and Witness Unit for protection.

He said his abduction last year and subsequent murder was "shocking" and amounted to an attack on Mr Ruto.

The ICC said Mr Yebei had been offered protection in a safe location but had returned to visit his family in Eldoret - a town in western Kenya which had been badly hit by the violence following the disputed 2007 election.

Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta were on opposite sides in that election but formed an alliance for the 2013 election which propelled them into power.

Some 1,200 people died and 600,000 fled their homes in the conflict after the earlier election - the worst violence in Kenya since independence.

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