Kenyan deputy premier Kenyatta at war crimes court

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Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta appeared Wednesday before the International Criminal Court for a hearing to determine whether he will be tried for crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors say Kenyatta masterminded "one of the most violent periods in Kenya's history," a bout of post-vote violence in 2007-08 in which more than 1,000 people died.

Potential presidential candidate in 2012 Uhuru Kenyatta, 49 is the son of Kenya's founding father Jomo Kenyatta.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki's right-hand man Francis Muthaura, 64, and ex-police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali, 55, are also facing charges for their part in the violence.

Kenyatta's group, all supporters of Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) are suspected of devising and implementing a "common plan" to attack supporters of then opponent and now Prime Minister Raila Odinga's party.

The three men allegedly used a Kenyan criminal organisation called the Mungiki and party youth to keep the PNU in power "by all means necessary" in what prosecutors called "one of the most violent periods in Kenya's history."

The ICC prosecutor's office said 1,133 people died and more than 663,000 others were displaced after clashes between supporters of Kibaki's ruling party and that of Odinga, when political riots turned to ethnic killings, then sparking further reprisals.

The hearings, during which prosecutors will try to convince the court they have enough evidence to go to trial, are scheduled to run until October 5.

The three are a second group of senior Kenyans to appear before the Hague-based court after ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in December 2010 asked judges to issue summonses against them for crimes against humanity.

Earlier this month two ex-Kenyan ministers William Ruto and Henry Kosgey as well as radio executive Joshua arap Sang also appeared before the court to determine if they should stand trial for their part in the violence.

© 2011 AFP

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