ICC to rule next month in bribery case of Congo ex-VP, aides

Prosecutors charge that Kilolo told witnesses to give or withhold certain information during their testimony in exchange for money.

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Former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court play

Former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court

(POOL/AFP/File)
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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 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 (1230 GMT) 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.

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