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ICC postpones Kenyatta trial opening

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The International Criminal Court on Thursday postponed the opening date of the crimes against humanity trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the request of the prosecutors.

The Hague-based court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked for a three-month postponement after saying last month she no longer had enough evidence to put Kenyatta on trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the aftermath of the east African country's disputed elections in 2007-8.

The "trial chamber vacated the trial commencement date of 5 February 2014," the court said in a statement, adding that a hearing would be held instead to discuss the prosecution's request.

Bensouda asked for the postponement after a key prosecution witness against Kenyatta was no longer willing to testify, while another key witness confessed to giving false evidence concerning a "critical event" in the case.

The event is believed to relate to a meeting between Kenyatta and leaders of the country's main criminal group called the Mungiki, with whom prosecutors allege Kenyatta had close ties.

Bensouda told judges she needed more time to get additional evidence in the trial, in which Kenyatta is accused of masterminding violence that left more than 1,100 dead and displaced several hundred-thousand others.

His trial and that of his deputy, William Ruto, on similar charges have been dogged by problems and delays, including witness withdrawal and Kenya's campaign to have the cases put on hold.

Ruto's trial began on September 10.

Arguments include allegations that the court is targeting Africans and that Kenya's leaders need to be available to tackle Al-Qaeda-linked militants who have turned neighbouring Somalia into a major global jihadist hub.

Both men have pledged their cooperation with the ICC, but both have also complained that the cases, parts of which they are obliged to attend in the Netherlands, were hampering their running of the country.

Bensouda's office has accused Kenya of not cooperating with the court, including by failing to provide what it says is critical evidence in Kenyatta's case.

Late last year the UN Security Council rejected a draft resolution backed by African countries to suspend Kenyatta and Ruto's trials for a year.

African leaders frequently complain that the ICC discriminates against their continent.

Both Kenyatta and Ruto, his one-time foe and now political partner, have maintained their innocence of charges of stoking the worst violence in the east African country since independence in 1963.

jhe/cc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140123/icc-postpones-kenyatta-trial-opening-0