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Three of Kenyan 'Ocampo Six' Suspects Appear Before International Court

Back row, former Kenyan Education Minister Ruto, left, former Kenyan Minister of Industrialization Kosgey, center, and Kenyan broadcaster Sang, right, appear at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, April 7, 2011

Three leading Kenyans have appeared before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where they face charges of crimes against humanity for the post-election violence following the country’s 2007 disputed presidential vote. They make up one-half of the so-called "Ocampo Six", named after the court’s prosecutor who is bringing the charges.

The three suspects came to The Hague voluntarily and will leave as free men. They are MPs William Ruto and Henry Kosgey and broadcaster Joshua Sang, key party figures in Kenya’s current coalition government.

They are all charged with crimes against humanity including murder, forcible transfer and persecution for the post-election violence at the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008. More than 1,000 people were killed and some 500,000 were driven from their homes at that time.

The violence broke out after supporters of President Mwai Kibaki were accused of trying to rig the presidential election.

It ended when Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga agreed to share power, with Odinga becoming prime minister.

Thursday hearing was strictly to make sure the suspects understand their rights and the charges against them. While they all said they did, former higher education minister Ruto told judges that he has not been successful trying to get details of the allegations from prosecutors.

"To me these allegations sound like they can only be made in a movie," he said.

But judges cut him off, saying there will be time later to address those issues. They set September 1, some five months away, as the day when prosecutors will present the charges against the men and judges will then consider whether there is a case to answer to.

In the meantime, the Kenyan government has petitioned the court to drop the charges, saying it can investigate and prosecute the cases back home. Judges still have to rule on that request. In the meantime, three more prominent Kenyans, including Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, will appear before judges Friday to answer to similar charges.