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Kenya's Ruto pleads not guilty to crimes against humanity charges

THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto pleaded not guilty to crimes-against-humanity charges, denying wrongdoing in the violence following Kenya's 2007 election.

Ruto and his co-defendant Joshua Arap Sang entered not guilty pleas Tuesday before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, the court said in a release.

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Ruto and Sang, the head of operations at Kass FM in Nairobi, are accused of crimes against humanity, including murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution, allegedly committed in Kenya in following the 2007 election, the ICC said.

Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, is scheduled to stand trial in November, making him the first sitting head of state to do so in an international court, The Wall Street Journal reported. Kenyatta has also denied any wrongdoing in the violent aftermath of the 2007 elections that left more than 1,000 people dead.

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Many observers said they expected the ICC to delay going to trial against Ruto and Kenyatta, who were elected on a joint ticket earlier this year, until they are no longer in power, the Journal said.

The cases already were delayed several times and were hampered by the withdrawal of key witnesses and collapse of another case against one of Kenyatta's allies.

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Meanwhile, the Kenyan government has accused the ICC of neocolonialism and criticized the court's focus on African countries, the Journal said. Kenyatta and Ruto have both used the investigations to rally support from other African leaders.

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Last week, Kenya's parliament passed a motion to withdraw from the ICC, but even if Kenyatta signs the bill, the current cases would be unaffected.

The cases focus on the deadly aftermath of Kenya's elections in December 2007. The declaration of victory by incumbent President Mwai Kibaki sparked attacks and retaliations between Kibaki supporters and supporters of the opposition.

The ICC prosecution alleges the opposition's attacks weren't spontaneous outbreaks but orchestrated by Ruto, claiming he created, financed and armed a network of instigators.

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ICC prosecutors allege that Kenyatta, the finance minister for Kibaki, responding to the attacks with his own campaign of violence.

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