AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Judges at the International Criminal Court dealt a major blow to prosecutors trying to convict Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto over post-election violence by ruling on Friday that some testimony against him was inadmissible.
Ruto, expected to run again in elections next year and possibly stand for the top job in 2022, is charged with crimes against humanity. His co-accused, broadcaster Joshua arap Sang, greeted the decision with a jubilant Facebook post:
"Halleluyaaaaaaaaaaaa God is good. THANK you God. THANK you my lawyers. THANK you Kenyans ... ONE step to our FREEDOM."
Friday's ruling means prosecutors can no longer rely on depositions made before the start of the case by witnesses who have since recanted their testimony.
Ruto's lawyers are now expected to reprise their argument that, without the testimony of those witnesses linking Ruto to the violence, the case against him has "evaporated". There was no immediate response from the prosecution.
"The prior recorded testimony was delivered without an opportunity for the accused to cross-examine the witnesses," said presiding appeals judge Piotr Hofmanski, adding that this would prejudice the accuseds' right to a fair trial.
Both men deny accusations that they provoked violence that killed 1,200 people in 2007-2008 after elections.
A similar case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta collapsed last year, also following the loss of witness testimony. In both cases, prosecutors alleged witnesses were bribed or threatened into recanting.
After 13 years and spending more than a billion euros, the court has convicted only two people.
Kenya has rallied its African Union allies in a diplomatic and public relations push to depict the court as a colonial institution that had only prosecuted Africans.
There have been widespread allegations of witness intimidation in the Kenya cases. ICC prosecutors have so far charged three Kenyans for offences against the administration of justice.
Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Andrew Heavens