Judges at the International Criminal Court declared a mistrial in the case of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, throwing out the charges he faced over post-election violence because political interference had made a fair trial impossible.
“The proceedings are declared a mistrial due to a troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling,” judges said in a ruling seen by Reuters.
Prosecutors say more than 1,300 people died and some 600,000 others were left homeless in the aftermath of the national poll in Kenya’s worst wave of violence since independence from Britain in 1963.
The case has been keenly watched in Kenya, which has led a high-profile campaign against the ICC among African nations, accusing the tribunal of bias against the continent.
Several African nations have threatened to walk out of the court, set up in 2002 to try to the world’s worst crimes.
In a first before the ICC, Ruto’s defence team had filed a motion calling for the charges to be dismissed, arguing prosecutors had failed to prove he was involved in the violence.
Sang’s team has also maintained that there is “no case to answer”.
Sixteen out of the prosecution’s 42 witnesses have changed their stories or refused point blank to testify, which the prosecutors have alleged is due to intimidation, bribery or fear of reprisals.
The prosecution had argued the recanted testimonies were key evidence to the trial.
Ruto’s lawyers have argued there was no proof he was behind the bloodshed that rocked the powerful east African nation once seen as a regional beacon of stability.
The case was “in tatters,” the defence team maintained in January.
The decision to throw out the case will come as a heavy blow for the ICC, especially after the charges were dropped against Kenyatta.
Violence broke out in late 2007 after Kenyan opposition chief Raila Odinga from the Luo ethnic group accused then president Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, of rigging his way to re-election.
What began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings of the Kikuyu people, who in turn launched reprisal attacks.
Ruto was accused of holding meetings of his Kalenjin tribe in his Rift Valley home to allegedly plan attacks on Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe.