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Hague Court Opens Kenyatta Status Hearing

  • Lisa Bryant

Uhuru Kenyatta (C) arrives at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as he departs to attend a hearing at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, in Nairobi, October 7, 2014.

Uhuru Kenyatta (C) arrives at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as he departs to attend a hearing at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, in Nairobi, October 7, 2014.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) has begun a two-day status hearing on the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The Kenyan leader faces crimes against humanity charges related to his alleged role in post-election violence seven years ago in Kenya. Kenyatta is expected to attend Wednesday's wrap-up hearing.

The first day of the status hearing at the ICC pretty much ended the way it began, with the prosecution claiming the Kenyan government was blocking access to key documents for its case against Kenyatta and the defense arguing it was doing its best to comply.

At the end of the two-hour hearing, prosecution lawyer Benjamin Gumpert summed up his frustrations.

"There has been no indication from the representative of the government of Kenya that they intend to adopt any of the measures, which the prosecution has urged upon them, and which in some cases the chamber has suggested they should adopt to overcome what they say is the impossibility of providing any more material. And as long as that remains the case, then we are, I would respectfully submit, deadlocked," said Gumpert.

Kenya's president faces five counts at the ICC for his alleged role in overseeing post-election violence in late 2007 and early 2008 that killed about 1,100 people and displaced more than half a million. Kenyatta says he is innocent.

Much of Tuesday's hearing was spent wading through bureaucratic details as the prosecution described unsuccessful efforts to get complete records of Kenyatta's bank statements, phone calls and tax filings. It argues these documents will help prove Kenyatta's role in bankrolling and orchestrating the violence.

But Kenya Attorney General Githu Muigai said the prosecution's demands were sometimes impossible to meet.

"We have come here today offering many alternatives, including requesting, like we have done before, for the prosecution to give us actionable information, material that can help us to access. ... Please give us that information. We will supply whatever you need within 72 hours," said Muigai.

This status conference aims to set a date for Kenyatta's trial. But the prosecution says its case is faltering, not just for lack of key documents, but because witnesses have been intimidated to change their story or pull out.

The court has summoned Kenyatta to appear Wednesday, which will make him the first sitting president to appear before the ICC. He has temporarily handed power over to deputy president William Ruto, who is also on trial at the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity. Ruto also denies the charges.

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