The Hague: Kenya`s presidential contenders Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, and two other men must stand trial at the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity during post-election violence in 2008, a judge ruled on Monday.
The decision by the Hague-based court - whose proceedings have been closely followed in Kenya - is likely to have far-reaching political consequences for the biggest economy in east Africa.
Both Kenyatta, who is Kenya`s finance minister and son of the country`s founding president, and Ruto, a former higher education minister, want to run for president in an election expected next year. The ICC`s decision that they must face trial is likely to interfere with those plans.
Ruto immediately said he would run for president despite the ruling.
"This is to confirm I am firmly in the race. Let us meet at the ballot," Ruto told a news conference in Nairobi.
Kenyan media reported that Ruto would appeal the ruling.
The ruling could also lead to protests, possibly riots, in Kenya if people feel the court`s decision was unfair, and may backfire on another presidential contender, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is accused by Kenyatta`s and Ruto`s supporters of trying to exploit the criminal charges for his own political gain.
The court ruled that there was sufficient evidence to try four out of the six politicians and officials suspected of orchestrating violence in the wake of the disputed 2007 elections that killed at least 1,200 people and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Kenyan radio presenter Joshua arap Sang and Kenyan civil service head Francis Muthaura must also stand trial, the judge ruled. But she said there was insufficient evidence to confirm charges against Henry Kosgey, the former industrialization minister and Mohammed Hussein Ali, former police commissioner.
"The chamber found that the prosecutor has established substantial grounds to believe that the crimes against humanity of murder, deportation or forcible transfer and persecution were committed," presiding ICC judge Ekaterina Trendafilova said about the charges against Ruto and Sang.
"These crimes resulted in the death in the deaths of hundreds and displacement of thousands of civilians," she added.