ICC to rule in bribery case of DRC ex-VP, aides

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

THE HAGUE — The In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court will hand down its ver­dict next month against for­mer Con­golese vice pres­i­dent Jean-Pierre Bemba and four close as­so­ciates ac­cused of brib­ing wit­nesses, the tri­bunal said on Wed­nes­day.

Pros­e­cu­tors have charged ex-mili­tia leader Bemba, 53, of mas­ter­mind­ing a net­work from his prison cell at the ICC’s de­ten­tion unit to bribe at least 14 de­fence wit­nesses to give false ev­i­dence dur­ing his war crimes trial.

The ver­dict “will be de­liv­ered . . . on Wed­nes­day, 19 Oc­to­ber at 14:30 dur­ing a pub­lic hear­ing at the seat of the court,” the tri­bunal based in The Hague said in a state­ment.

“The cham­ber has or­dered that the ac­cused be present at the hear­ing,” it added.

Once the pow­er­ful leader of the Con­golese Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment (MLC), Bemba was sen­tenced in June to 18 years in jail after be­ing found guilty at the ICC on five charges of war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity for a se­ries of rapes and mur­ders com­mit­ted by his troops in the Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic.

Pros­e­cu­tors at the open­ing of his sep­a­rate bribery trial in 2015 — the first of its kind at the ICC — ac­cused Bemba of di­rect­ing a plan from be­hind his jail cell walls in a Hague sea­side sub­urb to “en­sure his ac­quit­tal through cor­rupt means”.

Also in the dock are Bemba’s lawyer Aime Kilolo, his le­gal case man­ager Jean-Jac­ques Man­genda, with Con­golese law­maker Fidele Ba­bala and Nar­cisse Arido, a de­fence wit­ness. The four were granted in­terim re­lease in 2014. Pros­e­cu­tors charge that Kilolo told wit­nesses to give or with­hold cer­tain in­for­ma­tion dur­ing their tes­ti­mony in ex­change for money.

Man­genda is be­lieved to have been aware, as Bemba’s le­gal case man­ager, that Kilolo was al­legedly brib­ing wit­nesses, and is ac­cused of re­lay­ing mes­sages be­tween Bemba and Kilolo.

Ba­bala, deputy sec­re­tary of Bemba’s MLC party, al­legedly han­dled money trans­fers in­clud­ing pay­ments to Kilolo, Man­genda and Arido.

Arido, who was an ex­pert de­fence wit­ness on mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic, is ac­cused of re­cruit­ing wit­nesses for the de­fence and in­struct­ing them what to say in Bemba’s trial in ex­change for money. All five pleaded not guilty to more than 100 com­bined charges. “The sen­tence would be pro­nounced at a later stage, only if the ac­cused would be found guilty,” the ICC state­ment added. — AFP

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