April 8, 2016 / 8:47 AM / in 2 years

Kenya's Ruto says ICC case collapsed because he's innocent

Deputy Kenyan President William Ruto addresses the media at a news conference at the Movenpick Hotel in the Hague in this October 15, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Phil Nijhuis/Files

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto said on Friday an International Criminal Court case against him collapsed because he was innocent of fomenting election violence that killed 1,200 people.

ICC judges dismissed charges against Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang on Tuesday, saying political interference and witness-tampering had made a fair trial impossible.

A similar ICC case against President Uhuru Kenyatta fell apart in December 201. In both cases, prosecutors alleged that witnesses were bribed or threatened into recanting.

In his first public comment since the decision, Ruto said he had not been involved in buying weapons or funding or planning the violence following a disputed election in December 2007.

“The allegations that were made against me were criminal acts of evil minds that schemed, connived, colluded and fabricated a case against us,” he said.

Ruto, who is expected to run again in elections next year and possibly for the presidency in 2022, rejected an ICC statement that the case unraveled because of political and witness interference.

Ruto, whose 2012 political alliance with Kenyatta in the ruling Jubilee coalition was seen as a marriage of convenience to fight the ICC charges, thanked the president for his support.

“One man defied everyone’s expectation except mine to stand by me. I want to thank my dear friend, Uhuru Kenyatta,” he said.

Analysts said the end of the ICC case could encourage Ruto to make his presence felt more strongly in the coalition, opening disagreements with Kenyatta on policy, although not enough to derail their joint election pitch.

“Having this ICC case out of the way probably smoothes relations between the two sides of the coalition, as both the deputy president and the president are now on the same ICC-free level,” said Tom Wolf, a Nairobi-based political analyst.

Kenyatta has called for a celebration on April 16 in Nakuru, where the two opened their campaign in the last election, to mark the end of the case.

John Mbadi, a legislator and chairman of the ODM opposition leader party, said the end of the case would force voters to look more closely at the coalition’s record.

“The ICC is not going to be used any more for political reasons. It ceases to be a campaign agenda in 2017. Now Kenyans can focus on the government’s performance - or lack of it,” he said.

Editing by Ed Cropley, Larry King

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