THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Lawyers for Kenya’s deputy president sought an urgent adjournment Sunday in his trial at the International Criminal Court so he can return home to help deal with the fallout from the deadly shopping mall attack in Nairobi.
The motion underscores the difficulties for Deputy President William Ruto in attending the trial in The Hague while trying to help run his country.
Ruto’s lead attorney, Karim Khan, said the court is expected to debate his request early Monday morning.
“Mr. Ruto, as the serving deputy president of Kenya, is required to return to Kenya to discharge his ordinary constitutional duties which include participating in security briefings and consultations and involvement in other ongoing and very sensitive national security investigations,” Khan’s motion said.
Ruto, whose trial started earlier this month in The Hague, has pleaded not guilty to charges of orchestrating violence in the aftermath of Kenya’s 2007 elections. He is the first such high-ranking elected government leader to go on trial at the International Criminal Court.
Saturday’s mall attack by Islamic extremists left dozens of people dead and Kenyan troops in in standoff with the assailants. Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked rebel group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was retribution for Kenyan forces’ 2011 push into Somalia and threatened more attacks.
Before Ruto’s trial started, judges had agreed to a defense request to allow the deputy president to remain in Kenya for parts of his case. However prosecutors appealed the decision, and Ruto is currently obliged to attend all sittings in The Hague until there is a ruling on that appeal.
Khan said the situation unfolding in Nairobi “shows the wisdom of the trial chamber’s original decision and how regrettable it was the prosecution took such a rigid view” of the necessity for Ruto to attend all hearings.
“There are 40 million people in Kenya, and they have a constitutional right to have the people they want govern over them,” Khan said.
The situation could become further exacerbated later this year when Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is due to go on trial for his alleged role in 2007-2008 postelection violence that left more than 1,000 people dead.