IN AN unprecedented decision, judges at the International Criminal Court yesterday excused Kenya’s deputy president from his crimes against humanity trial for at least a week so he could return home to help deal with the terror attack.
At a hastily arranged hearing, presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said William Ruto could leave on a morning flight to Kenya. The hearing was quickly halted and he was rushed to the airport.
Ruto is the first such high-ranking politician to go on trial at the court while still in office. Even before it started earlier this month, his defence lawyers had asked judges if he could stay in Kenya for much of the trial to attend to his duties as deputy head of state. Judges initially allowed the move, but prosecutors appealed the decision, saying Ruto should be present.
Prosecutors did not object to his returning home yesterday.
Ruto is on trial in The Hague charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating violence in the aftermath of Kenya’s 2007 presidential election. He has pleaded not guilty.
Ruto’s lawyer, Karim Khan, told the court his client had to be back in Nairobi to help president Uhuru Kenyatta deal with the terror attack.
“The world would have found it intolerable if the president and vice-president of the United States were not in the country after 9/11,” he told the judges. “Well, this is Kenya’s 9/11.”
Later this year, Mr Kenyatta is also due to go on trial in The Hague charged with involvement in post-election violence.
His lawyers yesterday filed a motion asking judges to excuse the president from attending all but the opening and closing statements and the final judgment.