Arusha, September 26, 2014 (FH) -  Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to allow him not to be present in person at an October 8 hearing to prepare his crimes against humanity trial.

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In an “urgent request” filed Thursday, his defence say the Kenyan head of state can be adequately represented at this status conference by his lawyers.

Uhuru Kenyatta, who has always protested his innocence, is charged with crimes against humanity perpetrated during violence that followed elections at the end of 2007.

Should the Court decline to excuse Kenyatta from the hearing, the defence ask that it be postponed and that he be allowed to attend by videoconference.

Kenyatta’s lawyers explain that on October 8 Kenyatta, as current president of the East African Community (EAC), is due to chair a regional summit in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

“The meeting deals with economic development and regional security issues,” say his British lawyers Steven Kay and Gillian Higgins.

The next day he is due to represent his country, still in Kampala, at ceremonies marking the 52nd anniversary of Uganda’s independence.

Under an amendment to the ICC’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence adopted in November 2013, certain accused persons may, with the judges’ authorization, appear before the Court by videoconference.

An accused person who has been summoned may submit a written request for authorization to appear by videoconference for part or parts of the trial.

This amendment also provides that when examining such a request, the judges should recognize the special status of an accused person such as Kenyatta who has a mandate to perform “exceptional public duties”.

This change to the Rules was made at the request of the African Union, which crossed swords with the ICC after the Court indicted Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto.

The October 8 status conference was convened by the judges last week to examine the status of preparations for Kenyatta’s trial.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda accuses the Kenyan authorities of failing to provide certain key documents that she needs for her evidence.  Nairobi claims that it is cooperating fully.