The International Criminal Court prosecutor named three Kenyan government ministers and a former police chief on Wednesday among six suspects behind the east African country's post-election violence in 2008.
The widely awaited announcement has the potential to destabilise Kenya's fragile coalition, or unity government, which was formed by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to end the violence and restore stability.
More than 1,220 people died and 350,000 were displaced in the violence, severely denting Kenya's reputation for stability in a turbulent region.
Moreno-Ocampo said he was pursuing suspended education minister William Ruto, finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta, industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey, and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali for alleged murder, deportation, and persecutions.
The prosecutor filed two separate cases, with different charges. The other suspects are radio executive Joshua arap Sang, and Kenya's secretary to the cabinet, Francis Muthaura.
Moreno-Ocampo said he wanted the suspects to appear voluntarily before the court. If they did not, arrest warrants would be sought.
"These six individuals should make clear whether they are willing to appear before the court ... and if not, prosecutors will request judges to issue an arrest warrant," ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said.
The prosecutor said that in early December 2008, Ruto and Kosgey, members of the Orange Democratic Movement party, began preparing "a criminal plan" to attack supporters of the rival Party of National Unity, particularly in the Rift Valley. He said Sang helped in the planning and conveyed messages.
In late December, thousands of the network's members started a well co-ordinated attack on different places, using transport and weapons provided by the organisers, Moreno-Ocampo said.
"They started to burn down homes, to kill people and systematically forcibly displace these people from their homes," Moreno-Ocampo said. "In the response to this attack, members of the government also committed crimes."
Moreno-Ocampo said Muthaura, secretary to the cabinet, authorised the police to use excessive force against civilians, resulting in shootings and killings, and that Kenyatta was pivotal in helping to facilitate uprisings of other groups.
ICC names Kenya suspects over vote violence
ICC prosecutor named several Kenyan government ministers and a former police chief as suspects behind the east African country's post-election violence in 2008.