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ICC Prosecution Says Kenya Obstructing Case Against Kenyatta

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- The prosecution at the International Criminal Court accused the Kenyan government of withholding evidence that could help convict the East African nation’s president on crimes against humanity charges.

The prosecution may eventually be forced to withdraw from the case following “sustained” efforts by the government to obstruct access to information, Benjamin Gumpert, from the Office of the Prosecutor, told The Hague-based court today. Vital evidence on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s banking records is being withheld, Gumpert said today at a status hearing.

“Absent of the financial records of which we have spoken, the remaining stones unturned are better characterized as pebbles and the realistic prospect that turning them will yield real potentially conclusive evidence is minimal,” he said.

Kenyatta, 52, and his deputy William Ruto, 47, have been charged by the court with organizing election violence following a disputed election six years ago that left more than 1,100 people dead over two months. Both men say they are innocent. Ruto’s trial began in September.

Kenyatta’s trial had been scheduled to start today before being postponed indefinitely after ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in December asked for more time to rebuild the case because two key witnesses withdrew their testimony.

The prosecutor’s office this month said an extension is necessary because the Kenyan government has refused to provide evidence, even though it’s bound to cooperate as a signatory to the Rome Statute that created the court.

The prosecution’s case has “collapsed,” Steven Kay, a lawyer representing Kenyatta, told the court today. The prosecution has unjustly shifted the blame of the failure of its case to the Kenyan government, Kay said.

Bensouda has previously said that her witnesses are being intimidated to recant their stories while others confessed to lying amid a climate of “fear.”

Presiding Judge Kuniko Ozaki said no decision would be taken on the matter today, without providing a date. The trial was adjourned, and the court will make an announcement later about its next hearing.

To contact the reporter on this story: Corina Ruhe in Amsterdam at cruhe@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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