A group of Kenyans petitioning for a court ruling on whether two key presidential hopefuls charged with crimes against humanity are eligible to run in March elections unexpectedly withdrew their case Thursday.
Judge Mohamed Warsame said it was with a "heavy heart" that he granted the request to withdraw the petition which questioned if Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, 51, and ex-minister William Ruto, 45, could run in March 2013 polls.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the legal move. The key lawyer in the case called it a "tactical" withdrawal and, in response to reporters' questions, denied he had received any threats in the matter.
Kenyatta and Ruto are former rivals who plan to run as allies in the upcoming presidential elections, the first since deadly post-election violence in 2007-2008.
But both must stand trial at The Hague-based International Criminal Court for their alleged role in having orchestrated the post-election unrest that killed at least 1,100 people and displaced more than 600,000.
The petition, submitted by members of the public, questioned if the pair can run as, under a new constitution adopted in 2010, those holding public office and charged with a crime must step down.
The petitioners' lawyer Ambrose Weda denied there had been threats to withdraw the case, and that it would be refiled to include the names of all presidential hopefuls.
"This is a tactical withdrawal. We promise Kenyans a better, bigger and well prepared case. We will refile it," Wede said.
"We have not been intimidated in any way, but as is usual with cases touching on the political elite, precaution had to be taken," he added.
Kenyatta faces five charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution, deportation and other inhumane acts.
Ruto faces three charges of crimes against humanity.
Both have claimed their innocence, remain free and have promised to cooperate with the court.© ANP/AFP