Kenya case draws in large crowd

Photo/LAWRENCE MAINGI/NATION

Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta greets Kenyans in The Hague after the first day of the confirmation hearings on September 21, 2011.

Not even the local reporters have seen anything like it.

The second Kenyan case that enters its third day on Friday has caused a buzz of excitement here, with many observers abandoning the other cases to follow proceedings in courtroom Number One.

The unusually sharp exchanges between the lawyers and the prosecution have become the talk of the town.

The blunt language being used, in contrast to the laid-back nature of the proceedings in other cases, has seen the public gallery and media centre in the part of the building devoted to the Kenya case fill up well before the sessions get under way every day at 2.30pm local time.

“It is highly unusual,” said Dutch journalist Tjitske Lingsma who follows the International Criminal Court for the local media.

“We are not used to seeing this much drama in the court. Compared with other cases, this is fireworks!”

Mr Francis Muthaura’s lawyer Karim Khan has been in combative form. At one point, he shot up to object to a statement by a member of the prosecution team with the retort: “This is not LA Law or Buenos Aires Law!”

That was a reference to the popular TV legal drama series while the second referred to chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s hometown.

One of the reasons proceedings in the ICC are traditionally genteel and laid back is the dominance of the courts by British lawyers.

Members of the American bar tend to be far more aggressive than their British counterparts.

Uniquely among the suspects, Maj-Gen Hussein Ali has gone for American lawyer Gregory Kehoe from New York and it shows. (READ: Uhuru, Ali ready for confirmation hearings)

Mr Kehoe’s submissions on day one were so blunt and aggressive that at one point members of the registry and other lawyers within the courtroom could not contain themselves and burst out laughing.

The lawyer submitted that a prosecution witness could not be relied on because, he claimed, he had changed his testimony a number of times and might be “one of those fellows whose memory improves over time”.

He also accused the prosecution of withholding information from the defence.

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