Prosecutors do not object to Kenya trial delays

AP News

2/26/2013 12:17:18 PM - AP News

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The trials of four prominent Kenyans charged with orchestrating deadly postelection violence in 2007 and 2008 could be delayed until next summer.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague said Tuesday they do not object to pushing back the scheduled April start dates.

One suspect, Kenyan cabinet secretary Francis Muthaura, may not even have to stand trial after prosecutors acknowledged that their decision to drop a key witness who was found to have lied in statements to prosecutors had undermined their case.

Two of the suspects, Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former education minister William Ruto, are running mates in next week's presidential elections. They have repeatedly been asked during campaigning how they could run the African nation while standing trial in The Hague.

Kenyatta and Muthaura are charged with crimes against humanity for alleged involvement in the murder, forcible deportation, persecution and rape of supporters of Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the aftermath of the 2007 vote. The violence left more than 1,000 people dead.

The two other suspects, Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Arap Sang, are charged with similar offenses but face a separate trial because they supported different candidates in Kenya's 2007 national election.

All four suspects have been allowed to remain free in Kenya.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in written filings she would not object to the delay after defense lawyers complained earlier this month that they had not been given enough time to prepare because prosecutors had not disclosed all their evidence. She also cited logistical bottlenecks at the 10-year-old court.

Court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told The Associated Press on Tuesday that judges have not yet decided whether to delay the trials.

Bensouda still stressed that the court must show Kenyans the trials will get under way.

"It is important for the Kenyan public, particularly the victims of the 2007-2008 postelection violence, to be assured that the trial will, in fact, commence in the coming months," Bensouda wrote.

In a separate filing, Bensouda said she would not oppose the Muthaura case being sent back to establish if it is strong enough to even merit a trial. Muthaura's lawyers urged the move after prosecutors dropped a key witness who was found to have fabricated evidence linking him to the violence.

"The witness whose statement is at issue was essential on the issue of Mr. Muthaura's criminal responsibility and, in fact, was the only direct witness against him," Bensouda wrote.

Muthaura's lawyer did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.