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ICC postpones Kenyan president's trial to February

By CNN Staff
updated 12:51 PM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's trial was scheduled to begin on November 12.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's trial was scheduled to begin on November 12.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had been scheduled to start on November 12
  • Kenyatta charged in International Criminal Court with five counts of crimes against humanity
  • Charges accuse him of funding militia that conducted attacks after disputed 2007 election
  • Attacks happened six years before Kenyatta was elected to presidency

(CNN) -- The International Criminal Court on Thursday postponed the beginning of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's trial on charges of crimes against humanity by three months to February 5, accepting a defense request for more preparation time.

The trial at the Netherlands-based ICC had been scheduled to begin on November 12. The prosecution agreed that certain issues raised by the defense merited further investigation, the court said.

Kenyatta was charged last year with five counts of crimes against humanity, stemming from violence that plagued a disputed 2007 Kenyan presidential election, in which then-incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner.

More than 1,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced when ethnic groups loyal to leading candidates in the December 2007 election torched homes and hacked rivals to death. The charges accuse Kenyatta, who backed Kibaki in the election, of funding a local militia that conducted reprisal attacks.

Kibaki continued to serve as President until this year. Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding leader, was elected in March and took office in April.

The ICC has also accused Deputy President William Ruto of orchestrating attacks. A third suspect, radio personality Joshua arap Sang, is being tried alongside Ruto on similar charges; the trial of these two began in September.

Kenyatta and Ruto have denied accusations that they coordinated violence among their respective ethnic groups after the disputed election.

African Union accuses ICC of bias, seeks delay of cases against sitting leaders

The court -- set up in 2002 to try claims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes -- has ordered Kenyatta to attend opening and closing statements, but has excused him from being at the trial otherwise.

The Kenyan parliament voted in September to withdraw from the court's jurisdiction after repeatedly calling on it to drop the cases. But a withdrawal would take a while to implement because it involves steps such as a formal notification to the United Nations, and the ICC said the trials would proceed. Kenyatta has said he and Ruto would cooperate with the court to clear their names.

Kenya's previous administration reneged on a deal to set up a special tribunal to try suspects in the post-election violence, prompting the international court to step in.

Kenya is the second African nation after Sudan to have a sitting president facing charges at the International Criminal Court. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has largely shunned an ICC warrant for his arrest for alleged war crimes.

CNNs Pierre Meilhan, Jason Hanna and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.

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