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Justice

ICC issues arrest warrant for Kenyan journalist for 'influencing' witnesses

The International Criminal Court has called for the arrest of a Kenyan journalist who allegedly bribed witnesses. The court has never before issued a warrant on suspicion of interference with justice.

A high-profile international trial linked to post-election violence in Kenya expanded on Wednesday when the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for a Kenyan journalist suspected of influencing witnesses.

Last month, Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister William Ruto went on trial at The Hague-based court on charges of inciting violence following disputed elections in 2007. Over 1,000 people died and some 600,000 were displaced in the unrest.

The ICC announced on Wednesday that it was seeking the arrest of journalist William Barasa, 41, accusing him of interfering in Ruto's case.

"Walter Barasa, against whom compelling evidence has been collected, has been part of this network [of people trying to sabotage Ruto's case]," ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

Barasa's "actions fit into this wider scheme that the [prosecutor's] office continues to investigate," Bensouda said.

If found guilty, Barasa could face a five-year prison sentence.

The trial of Deputy Prime Minister Ruto resumed on Wednesday. The court had allowed Ruto to return to Kenya during the attack on the Nairobi mall in late September. He and his co-accused - former radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang - have pleaded not guilty.

Kenyan Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta also faces similar charges in a separate case. His trial in the Hague begins next month.

Barasa denies charges

Barasa rejected the allegations brought against him by the ICC on Wednesday.

"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," Barasa said.

"I respect the court. I respect the rights of the accused persons to a fair hearing, and the victims' right to get justice. But I do not accept coercion and unorthodox means of implicating accused persons and conducting investigations to attain an unjust end," he said.

News agencies have suggested various links between the Kenyan journalist and the country's leaders facing trial at the ICC. The Associated Press reported that Barasa had worked for the Mediamax Network Ltd, which Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's family owns. He also has links to the town of Eldoret, which lies some 330 kilometers (205 miles) northwest of Nairobi, and is the deputy prime minister's political stronghold, according to Reuters news agency.

Kenyan police must now decide whether to apprehend the wanted journalist. The arrest warrant coincides with growing resentment in Kenya against the ICC. Last month, the country's parliament passed a motion to withdraw its cooperation with the international court, citing a bias against African leaders.

kms/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)