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Kenyan Court to Hear Suit Barring President, VP, From Trial

FILE - Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta at the National Assembly Chamber in Nairobi, April 16, 2013.
Kenya's Constitutional Court is set to begin hearing a lawsuit brought by a civic organization seeking to bar the country's president and vice president from attending their upcoming trials in the International Criminal Court.

The lawsuit is set to open Wednesday in Nairobi. It seeks to block President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, from appearing at the tribunal in The Hague until they serve their full five-year terms in office.

The two officials face charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in orchestrating ethnic violence following Kenya's disputed 2007-2008 elections. More than 1,100 people were killed in that violence.

Ruto's trial is set to begin next week, while the president's is slated for later this year, creating the possibility that the two proceedings could overlap.

Lawyers for the plaintiff, the National Conservative Forum, are set to argue that the national constitution does not provide a legal mechanism for delegating authority if both officials are outside the country at the same time.

Forum chief Jennifer Shamalla says the lawsuit also cites the possibility that the leaders' absence from the country could spark ethnic tensions or spawn attacks by Islamist militants in neighboring Somalia.

Despite the charges against him, Kenyatta in March won a first round victory in Kenya's presidential election. Both he and Ruto have denied the ICC charges.