Uhuru Kenyatta challenges ICC case

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Lawyers for Kenya's President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta have urged the International Criminal Court to drop charges against him.

He denies accusations of instigating violence after the disputed 2007 poll.

The special hearing came a week after charges against his co-accused, Francis Muthaura, were dramatically dropped.

Mr Kenyatta's lawyers argue charges against him are now compromised but the ICC prosecutor has said she has additional evidence against him.

The trial of Mr Kenyatta, who narrowly passed the 50% threshold to win elections earlier this month, is scheduled to start in July.

In the aftermath of the election in December 2007 - when Raila Odinga narrowly lost to incumbent President Mwai Kibaki - more than 1,000 people were killed and about 600,000 were left homeless.

Mr Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding president, is accused of organising attacks on members of ethnic groups seen as supporting Mr Odinga following the 2007 vote.

Key witness 'unreliable'

Last week, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the case against Mr Muthaura had been dropped as some witnesses were too scared to testify, while another had recanted part of his statement and admitted accepting bribes.

This key witness - known as witness number four - was present at a meeting where Mr Muthaura and Mr Kenyatta allegedly developed a plan to get the feared Mungiki sect to attack ethnic Kalenjins, seen as supporters of Mr Odinga in 2007.

Mr Kenyatta's lead lawyer Stephen Kay has argued that as witness four is the only direct person linking Mr Kenyatta to the Mungiki, without him there is no case against his client.

"To a certain extent we have lost faith in the decision-making as we warned the pre-trial chamber of the quality of the evidence and we were ignored," Mr Kay told the court, reports the AFP news agency.

"The evidence against Mr Muthaura which called for the case to be withdrawn is exactly the same for Mr Kenyatta," he said.

He urged the judges to send Mr Kenyatta's case back to the pre-trial chamber for judges to assess what remains of the evidence - and decide whether it is substantial enough to justify a trial.

The BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague says after the collapse of the case against his co-accused, there has been significant speculation that the charges against Mr Kenyatta may also be thrown out.

But the judges at Monday's hearing do not have the power to drop the charges, only to refer the case back to the pre-trial stage, she says.

This month's election in Kenya was largely peaceful, though Mr Odinga - again the defeated candidate, has filed a Supreme Court appeal against Mr Kenyatta's victory.

He says the electoral authorities have manipulated the result.

He has been serving as prime minister in the coalition government set up in the wake of the 2007/8 violence.

Mr Kenyatta's running mate in the recent poll, William Ruto, is also due to stand trial at The Hague for orchestrating violence against supporters of Mr Kibaki in 2007 - he strongly denies the allegation.

Analysts say the ICC cases bolstered their ticket, as voters saw it as interference in Kenya's domestic affairs.

If Mr Kenyatta's trial on charges of crimes against humanity does go ahead, his lawyers are still hoping that the judges will allow him to attend via a virtual video link - rather than abandon his presidential seat in Nairobi, our reporter says.

The ICC originally charged six people over the violence in Kenya but charges against two others were previously dropped.