AMSTERDAM (AP) — Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court said Wednesday that Kenya's government is obstructing the crimes against humanity case against its president by withholding access to crucial documents.
Defense lawyers shot back, saying that the prosecution's case against President Uhuru Kenyatta has fallen apart for lack of evidence and should be dismissed. Kenyatta has pleaded innocent to charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, forcible population transfer and persecution, for his alleged role in organizing violence that left more than 1,000 people dead after Kenya's 2007 elections.
The start of his trial was delayed in December after Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda acknowledged that one key witness had decided not to testify and another said he had given false testimony about a "critical event" in the case.
In a hearing on Wednesday about how and whether the case should proceed, prosecutor Benjamin Gumpert told judges that Kenya's government is obstructing access to information, particularly about Kenyatta's finances, which could prove vital to the case.
"One of the allegations that we make against Mr. Kenyatta is that he personally provided very large quantities of money which were funneled down through his intermediaries and messengers, and delivered in the form of cash to the perpetrators of the violence," he said.
He asked for an indefinite delay or at least "until such time as the government of Kenya complies with its treaty obligations" and discloses the information the prosecution is seeking. Kenyatta, who was not present at Wednesday's hearing, is the son of Kenya's founding president, Jomo Kenyatta. He was elected president last year, despite his 2011 indictment by the International Criminal Court. Popular resistance among Kenyans to the court's authority may have helped his campaign.
Defense lawyer Steven Kay said Wednesday that the prosecution's "new direction" of blaming the Kenyan government for obstruction comes "at the convenient time when the prosecution has realized that its case has collapsed."
Human rights groups have warned that witnesses in the case are being intimidated. Gumpert acknowledged Wednesday that two other avenues the prosecution had been pursuing to bolster evidence had not borne fruit and probably never would.
Presiding Judge Kuniko Ozaki said the panel hearing the case in The Hague, Netherlands, would not decide the matter Wednesday.