THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A defense lawyer for President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya told judges at the International Criminal Court on Monday that prosecutors should drop their case charging him with orchestrating post-election violence in Kenya in 2007 and 2008 for lack of evidence.
The legal battle in The Hague came as Kenya’s Supreme Court also is considering an appeal by Prime Minister Raila Odinga against the legitimacy of Kenyatta’s victory in March 4 elections in which he won his country’s presidency.
International Criminal Court prosecutors have charged Kenyatta with crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and deportation, for allegedly organizing attacks on supporters of his political rivals in the 2007 election. He denies all charges.
Weeks of violence after the late 2007 vote left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands more were forced from their homes.
Kenyatta was not in court in The Hague on Monday, but his lawyer Steven Kay told judges that the charges should be dropped after prosecutors scrapped charges against Francis Muthaura, who had been charged as a co-conspirator along with Kenyatta.
Judges formally dropped the case against Muthaura in a written decision Monday. Prosecutors withdrew the charges after a key witness, identified only as OTP 4, was discredited as a liar.
“What was withdrawn against Muthaura should have been withdrawn against Kenyatta,” Kay said.
Kay said that the evidence of OTP 4 was also a critical part of the case against Kenyatta and that without it the prosecution case was underpinned mainly by hearsay evidence from just two witnesses.
“I am saying that because the key evidence against Muthaura which caused the withdrawal of his case is exactly the same for Kenyatta,” Kay told judges.
He said he would further explain his arguments in written filings.
Prosecutors argue they have enough evidence for the case against Kenyatta to continue. They also say it can continue, even though Kenyatta and Muthaura were charged as “indirect co-perpetrators” in the post-election violence.
Kenyatta’s trial is scheduled to start in July, but Kay has urged judges to send the case back to a preliminary assessment of the strength of prosecution evidence in light of the decision to drop the case against Muthaura.
Odinga on Saturday asked Kenya’s Supreme Court to void the March 4 presidential election, saying it was neither free nor fair.
Kenyatta — the son of Kenya’s founding father — was declared winner by the narrowest of margins, 50.07 percent of the vote, breaking the 50 percent mark by about 8,000 votes out of 12.3 million cast.
The latest election and its aftermath have been largely peaceful, unlike the disputed 2007 vote.
But downtown Nairobi carried the scent of tear gas Saturday after police threw canisters at Odinga supporters who gathered despite warnings from police.