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Former Congolese VP sentenced an extra year in prison

A former Congolese vice president has been sentenced to an extra year in prison and fined 300,000 euros ($324,000) for interfering with witnesses in his trial at the International Criminal Court.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, who already is serving an 18-year prison term for crimes committed in Central African Republic by a militia he commanded, was sentenced Wednesday along with four members of the legal team.
Prosecutors had earlier recommended that Bemba, 54, be handed a new jail term “consecutive to his sentence in the main case.”

They also asked judges to sentence Bemba’s lawyer Aime Kilolo to eight years, his legal case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda to seven, Narcisse Arido, a defence witness, to five years and Congolese lawmaker Fidele Babala to three.

Illicit poaching
The feared former rebel leader and his four associates were found guilty in October of bribing witnesses in what judges at the world war crimes court described as “clear and downright criminal behaviour”.

The bribery verdict was the first of its kind in the ICC’s history, and the charges were brought after a tip-off to the prosecutor’s office.

Handing down their verdict, the judges said Bemba had tried to skew his main trial and had “planned, authorised, and approved the illicit coaching” of the witnesses.

Prosecutors said Bemba masterminded a network to bribe and manipulate at least 14 defence witnesses, persuading them to lie.

Set up in 2002 to prosecute the world’s worst crimes, the ICC goes to great lengths to try to protect witnesses and its trials from any interference.


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