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Kenyan Finance Minister, Two State Officials Appear at Hague

The International Criminal Court called a hearing for Sept. 21 to decide whether Kenyan Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and two other state officials will stand trial on accusations of crimes against humanity in the country’s post-election violence three years ago.

Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova set the date at the preliminary hearing today of Kenyatta as well as the head of Kenya’s Public Service, Francis Muthaura, and former police chief, Mohammed Ali Hussein, now postmaster general, at the Hague-based court.

Yesterday, the first group of suspects including suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto, former Industrialization Minister Henry Kosgey, and radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang, made their initial appearance. They denied accusations of murder, forced displacement and persecution. Kenyatta, Muthaura and Hussein face the same proposed charges on top of allegations of rape and other inhumane acts.

Ruto, Kosgey and Sang will return to court on Sept. 1 when the judge will decide whether they should face charges.

The six men are accused of orchestrating two months of post-election violence in 2008 that left 1,500 people dead and displaced another 300,000. The ethnic clashes were triggered by a December 2007 presidential election that returned Mwai Kibaki to office, and which his political rival Raila Odinga said was rigged.

Peace Accord

The two leaders later signed a peace accord, brokered by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, that left Kibaki as president and installed Odinga as prime minister.

No one has been held accountable for masterminding the bloodshed after Kenyan lawmakers failed on several occasions to set up a local tribunal. That prompted ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to investigate those responsible for the unrest.

Kibaki is trying to block the ICC litigation by campaigning for a one-year deferral so that East African nation can prepare its own legal system to handle post-election violence cases. The government filed applications last week challenging the court’s authority to handle the six cases.

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