THE HAGUE, Sep 21 – Deputy Premier Uhuru Kenyatta used a criminal network together with police to attack opposition supporters after Kenya’s disputed 2007 polls, the world war crimes court heard on Wednesday.
But Kenyatta’s lawyer and another top Kenyan co-accused hit back calling the prosecutor’s evidence “a pack of lies”, saying there was no evidence linking them to the violent aftermath of Kenya’s disputed 2007 elections in which prosecutors say more than 1,000 people died.
“Crimes were committed by the leaders of the PNU in association with the Mungiki and with the collaboration of the police,” ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the hearing in The Hague, referring to Kenya’s powerful underground criminal organisation.
Kenyatta, 49, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s right-hand man Francis Muthaura, 64, and ex-police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali, 55, are facing judges to see if they should stand trial for the 2007-08 unrest after Kenya’s controversial polls, the worst since independence in 1963.
The three each face five counts of crimes against humanity and remain free.
All supporters of Kibaki’s Party of National Unity, they are suspected of devising and implementing a plan to attack rivals of then opponent and now Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM.
“The crimes,” said Moreno-Ocampo on Wednesday, “were a response against the crimes committed by the leaders of the ODM.”
The prosecutor referred to a meeting on December 30 2007, following the disputed polls where he said Kenyatta proposed to use the Mungiki in reprisal attacks against ODM supporters.
“Kenyatta in this meeting proposed to use the Mungiki to fight back,” Moreno-Ocampo said.
Prosecutors alleged Kenyatta, a potential presidential candidate in 2012 and the son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, was “closely associated with the Mungiki.”
The Mungiki are described as a mafia-like group similar to a sect inspired by the Mau-Mau who fought for Kenyan independence.
The organisation, whose strongholds are in Nairobi and in areas of the dominant ethnic group in Kenya, the Kikuyu, has gradually turned into a group engaged in racketeering widely known for beheading some of its victims.
But a lawyer representing Kenyatta said he never formented violence in the bloodshed, which he said was orchestrated by the ODM who claimed elections were rigged and who did not accept the PNU’s victory.
“Dialogue is what he (Uhuru Kenyatta) wanted, not retaining power at any cost and not at the expense of lives,” Steven Kay said.
Co-accused Muthaura was even stronger in his response.
“What I heard from the prosecution is just a pack of lies of people who want to make money from the prosecution,” Muthaura told the court.
“I consider myself as a firefighter who was mistakenly arrested as an arsonist by a policeman who came to the scene too late,” he said.
The ICC prosecutor’s office said 1,133 people died and more than 663,000 others were displaced after clashes between the rival supporters, when political riots turned to ethnic killings, sparking further reprisals.
The hearings, during which prosecutors will try to convince the court they have enough evidence to go to trial, are scheduled to run until October 5.
The three are the second group of senior Kenyans to appear before the Hague-based court after ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in December 2010 asked judges to issue summonses against them for crimes against humanity.
Earlier this month ex-Kenyan ministers William Ruto and Henry Kosgey, as well as radio executive Joshua arap Sang, also appeared before the court to determine if they should stand trial for their part in the violence.
Supporters of Odinga’s ODM, they are accused for their part in attacks on PNU members in the Rift Valley. They all protested their innocence and the court’s decision is still awaited.
Kenya last month lost an appeal to stop the ICC from trying the six men, with the court turning down a request to have them in the dock in Nairobi.