Deputy President William Ruto is seeking to be excused from the trials for three days next week as he travels back home to take charge as President Uhuru Kenyatta travels to a regional summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
The application for excusal was made just about an hour after the President of the ICC Judge Sang-Hyun Song read in public the Appeals Chamber ruling reversing the conditional excusal of Mr Ruto from continuous presence at trial.
The Appeals Chamber while reversing the conditional excusal had said the absence of the accused from trial could be permissible under exceptional circumstances “and as a last resort i.e. after other reasonable alternatives have proved inadequate.” Some of the alternatives are rescheduling of the trials or adjournment.
Mr Ruto wants to be excused from trials on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before resuming his position in court on Thursday morning.
President Kenyatta is due to travel to Kigali for a tripartite meeting on infrastructure and security with Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame on Monday and Tuesday.
Mr Ruto would then also be required to attend a security meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday before taking the next flight back to The Hague.
'COALITION OF THE WILLING'
The tripartite meeting once again excludes Tanzania which has been uncomfortable with the 'coalition of the willing’ among Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.
While making the oral application Friday, Mr Ruto’s defence counsel Karim Khan said the Appeals Chamber had allowed a measure of flexibility in its ruling while applying Article 63 (1) on the accused’s presence at trials.
“We have previously addressed the chamber on the constitutional imperatives of the constitution of Kenya,” Mr Khan said citing a requirement that the president and deputy president should not be out of the country at the same time.
Mr Khan said the conditions for excusal of Mr Ruto “had been fully met and the period for excusal would be extremely limited.”
The Ruto defence also said the alternatives of rescheduling or adjournment of the trials as proposed by the Appeals Chamber were not available at the time, hence the deputy president seeking the court’s permission to be absent as the trials continue.
“The absence is limited to a period necessary. We are not seeking a blanket excusal. What we are asking for is to allow the President of Kenya to attend his stately responsibilities and Mr Ruto to return to Kenya,” Mr Khan said.
The Ruto defence also said the next witness in line, witness 268 was not a victim whose concerns and testimonies must be presented in the presence of the accused.
CONTEMPT OF COURT
Meanwhile, the Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji Friday admonished Mr Ruto for commenting on issues that are before the court in a media interview.
Mr Ruto had early in the week granted CNN an interview in which the prosecution said he had addressed matters before the court outside the courtroom.
Mr Khan was Friday forced to apologise to the chamber for the interview which was deemed contemptuous to the court.