THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Kenya's deputy president said Tuesday he wants his International Criminal Court trial to continue if judges will allow him to stay in Kenya and carry out his duties.
William Ruto said that Kenya has asked the United Nations Security Council to defer the ICC cases against him and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for a year, but Ruto said he would rather his trial go ahead if he doesn't have to attend hearings in The Hague.
His comments came days after an African Union summit in Ethiopia said it would not allow a sitting head of state to be prosecuted by an international tribunal and would seek a one-year Security Council deferral.
Kenyatta and Ruto are charged separately with involvement in Kenya's 2007-2008 post-election violence. Ruto's trial has started, while Kenyatta's is to begin Nov. 12.
Calls for delays of the cases against Kenyatta and Ruto have gained traction since the Sept. 21 terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall.
The brazen attack by Islamic militants has underscored Kenya's value to the West in the war against terror. The Somali Islamic group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the assault and said it was in retaliation for Kenya sending troops into neighboring Somalia.
"We believe that there are legitimate reasons for the deferral of this case to give Kenya the best possible chance to handle the serious challenges that exist in our region, in our country on a matter that is of global concern — terrorism in our region," Ruto told reporters during a break in his trial.
He said his first choice is not for deferral but for Kenyatta and himself to skip most of their trials in The Hague.
"We want this case to proceed to its logical conclusion because we are confident that finally we will be ... proven to be innocent," Ruto said.
Ruto initially was excused from attending most of his trial, but prosecutors appealed that decision and Ruto has to appear until appeals judges make a ruling. Kenyatta also has filed a motion seeking to be excused.
Both men say they are innocent and have cooperated fully with the court, attending all hearings voluntarily.