THE HAGUE Kenyan Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and two other top-ranking officials appeared at the International Criminal Court on Friday charged with inciting the violence that erupted after Kenya's 2007 disputed elections.
The country's Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura and former police chief Hussein Ali, currently head of Kenya's Postal Corporation, also appeared under summons as part of the war crime court's investigation into the violence.
"The process has now started and we expect justice at this stage. Nothing short of justice. When you are innocent there's nothing to worry about. So we have nothing to fear," Kenyatta told reporters outside the court after the brief hearing.
"Now we get a chance to see what evidence he (the prosecutor) has against us."
Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is presenting two cases to the ICC, accusing a total of six government and business officials of instigating ethnic violence in which more than 1,200 people died after Kenya's 2007 elections.
The bloodshed between the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and the Party of National Unity damaged Kenya's reputation for stability in an otherwise turbulent region.
But asked whether the ICC case would hurt East Africa's biggest economy, Kenyatta said Kenya was a strong and stable country and neither the shilling currency nor the economy would suffer.
The Kenyan government has objected to the ICC proceedings and asked the judges to declare both cases inadmissible.
It argues that the adoption of the country's new constitution and other reforms allow it to conduct its own prosecutions. However, polls have found that most Kenyans want an international court to try those accused of masterminding the violence.
Lawyers representing all three accused urged the court to ensure the prosecutor discloses the evidence to the defence, a thorny issue in other ICC cases.
Defence lawyer Karim Khan, representing Muthaura, said there was "no reason on earth" why evidence cannot be disclosed now, adding it was "central to the preparation of the defence."
"The judges are performing their job properly. There is a clear timetable for disclosure and we expect the prosecutor to honour the judges' instruction," Khan later told reporters.
Muthaura left the court without speaking to the media.
Earlier, presiding judge Ekaterina Trendafilova warned the suspects to avoid making any "dangerous speeches" that might incite violence as this could lead to their summonses being replaced with arrest warrants.
She issued the same warning to suspended government ministers William Ruto and Henry Kosgey, and to radio executive Joshua Arap Sang, who appeared in court on Thursday on charges of murder, forcible transfer and persecution.
Lawyer Khan cited Muthaura's "sincere willingness" to comply "vigorously" with the court's conditions and asked the judge to clarify whether his client had made any "adverse comment."
"I don't want the public who are listening to these proceedings to think ... that anything said or done by ambassador Muthaura is a cause of concern," Khan said.
Trendafilova replied that it was "very clear" the remark was addressed to all three of the accused and not one person in particular.
Judges are still to decide whether Kenya, rather than the court, has jurisdiction to try the cases, but the judicial proceedings will not be halted in the meantime.
Moreno-Ocampo said he was worried about providing evidence to the defence prior to a ruling on the admissibility challenge.
The court said it would hold a status hearing on Apr. 18 to discuss disclosure of evidence to the defence and a confirmation of charges hearing on Sep. 21 after which judges will need to decide whether the suspects should stand trial.
(Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block; editing by David Stamp/Ruth Pitchford)
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