ICC postpones Kenya president's trial until November

20th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

The International Criminal Court on Thursday postponed until November 12 Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's crimes against humanity trial in connection with deadly post-election violence.

"Today, the Trial Chamber... set a new date for the commencement of the trial of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta. The trial is now scheduled to commence on November 12," the Hague-based ICC said in a statement. Kenyatta's trial had been set to start on July 9.

Judges postponed the case after agreeing with Kenyatta's lawyers in April that they needed more time to prepare because of delays by the prosecution in disclosing evidence.

The judges however wanted to set the start date for early October but "scheduling conflicts, logistical and other constraints including the availability of courtrooms" prevented them from doing so, the statement said.

Kenyatta, 51, faces five counts of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and forcible transfer for his role in the unrest which ripped through Kenya after disputed election results in late 2007.

The son of Kenya's founding father is the first-ever serving head of state to face trial before the ICC, the world's only permanent independent court to try the worst crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Some 1,100 people died in the bloodshed after allegations of vote rigging, shattering Kenya's image as a beacon of regional stability.

What began as riots quickly turned into ethnic killings and reprisal attacks, plunging Kenya into its worst wave of violence since independence from Britain in 1963.

Prosecutors accuse Kenyatta, one of Africa's richest and most powerful men, of having ties with the shadowy criminal gang called the Mungiki -- a sect-like body known for skinning and beheading its victims -- which he allegedly directed to attack opposition supporters at the time.

A fellow accused, Joshua Arap Sang, and Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto are to go on trial on September 10, also facing crimes against humanity charges.

The ICC in January 2012 confirmed the crimes against humanity charges against four senior Kenyans including Kenyatta, Ruto and Sang.

Charges against the fourth accused, civil servant Francis Muthaura, were dramatically dropped in March after a key witness in his case was discredited and other witnesses either refused to testify or had died.

The cases against the remaining three are set to go ahead, with both Kenyatta and Ruto denying the charges.

Though they were bitter enemies in opposing camps during the previous polls in 2007, in a surprise move Ruto became Kenyatta's running mate during the March elections.

Earlier this month, the court postponed Ruto and Sang's trial date, while also recommending that part or all of the high-profile trial be moved to either Kenya or Tanzania.

Judges on Tuesday also said they would excuse Ruto from parts of the trial because of demands placed in him in Nairobi.

© 2013 AFP

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