Africa

ICC hearing: Kenya MPs 'to back Uhuru Kenyatta at Hague'

Mr Kenyatta at a pre-trial hearing at the ICC, 21 September 2011 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The start of Mr Kenyatta's trial at the ICC has been delayed several times

Scores of Kenyan MPs are preparing to travel to The Hague in support of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is due to appear at the International Criminal Court (ICC) next week.

Mr Kenyatta faces charges of organising ethnic massacres that killed 1,200 people after the 2007 elections.

Mr Kenyatta denies the charges. His trial has been delayed several times because of a lack of evidence.

The hearing on 8 October aims to set a date for the trial to commence.

Witnesses for the prosecution have withdrawn from the case, and in September, the ICC decided to postpone the start of the trial after prosecutors said the Kenyan government had failed to hand over crucial documents.

Mr Kenyatta's lawyers have repeatedly said the whole case should be dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kenya has not prosecuted anyone for the violence which racked the country in 2007-8

They had also asked the court to excuse Mr Kenyatta from the 8 October hearing on the grounds that he had other commitments in Uganda at the time.

The ICC rejected the request, saying that the matters to be discussed were at a critical stage and directly involved the interest of the accused and victims.

Scores of MPs and supporters of Mr Kenyatta have applied for Dutch visas in the hope of travelling to The Hague to back their leader.

"This is not Uhuru Kenyatta on trial," said Kenyan MP Moses Kuria. "Today he is President Uhuru Kenyatta and today he represents the sovereignty of this country and therefore it is the sovereignty of this country that is on trial."

According to the Associated Press news agency, Mr Kuria said he was the 94th legislator to have applied for a visa in Nairobi.

The agency quotes him as saying that he expected some 150 MPs to fly to The Hague next week.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The political dispute over the election result soon descended into ethnic killings

Mr Kenyatta was elected in 2013, despite facing the charges. Analysts said he turned the prosecution to his advantage, portraying it as foreign intervention in Kenya's domestic affairs.

In 2007, Mr Kenyatta was a close ally of President Mwai Kibaki, who was declared the winner in that year's election despite claims of fraud from his rival Raila Odinga.

The disputes soon turned violent, with targeted killings along ethnic lines, pitting members of the Kikuyu ethnic group of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Kibaki against other communities.

Mr Kenyatta is accused of organising an ethnic Kikuyu gang, the Mungiki sect, to attack rival groups.

His Vice-President, William Ruto, faces similar charges, although he was on Mr Odinga's side during the violence.

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