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International court scraps start of Kenyatta trial

Thursday - 1/23/2014, 1:00pm  ET

MIKE CORDER
Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- The International Criminal Court on Thursday scrapped the start date for the trial of Kenya's president on charges he orchestrated violence after his country's 2007 elections.

The court announced it will instead hold a hearing Feb. 5 -- the day President Uhuru Kenyatta's trial was to have started -- into prosecutors' request for a three-month adjournment in the case, and a request by the president to have the case thrown out altogether.

The delay is the latest setback in the case against Kenyatta, who insists he is innocent of all charges against him.

Prosecutors asked for a delay in the case in December after one witness pulled out and another admitted giving false evidence.

At the time, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she needed time to reconsider her case.

"Having carefully considered my evidence and the impact of the two withdrawals, I have come to the conclusion that currently the case against Mr. Kenyatta does not satisfy the high evidentiary standards required at trial," she said.

In a decision issued Thursday, judges revealed that Kenyatta's defense team filed a confidential request on Jan. 13 for the court to "terminate the proceedings ... on the grounds of insufficiency of evidence."

No further details of the defense request were available. Judges ordered Kenyatta's lawyers to file a public version by Jan. 28. Kenyatta's defense team last year also asked for the case to be thrown out.

Kenyatta denies charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, forcible population transfer and persecution, for his alleged role organizing violence after Kenya's 2007 elections that left more than 1,000 people dead by early 2008.

Kenya's deputy president, William Ruto, already is on trial at the ICC on similar charges. He has pleaded innocent.

Ruto is alleged to have organized attacks on supporters of the Party of National Unity, while Kenyatta allegedly organized violence targeting perceived supporters of the Orange Democratic Movement.

Kenyatta was indicted in March 2011 along with two other suspects. Charge against both the other suspects in the case have since been dropped for lack of evidence.

Kenyatta is the son of Kenya's founding president, Jomo Kenyatta. He was elected president last year despite his 2011 indictment by the ICC. Popular resistance among Kenyans to the court's authority may have helped his campaign.

African countries accuse the ICC of disproportionately targeting African leaders. The court has indicted only Africans since it was established in 2002, although half of the eight cases it is prosecuting were referred to it by African governments.


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