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High-profile ‘coup’ trial begins

Publish date: 10 June 2024
Issue Number: 1080
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: DRC

Three American suspects in what the DRC army called an attempted coup in Kinshasa last month committed acts ‘punishable by death’, a court heard on Friday at the start of their trial. Marcel Malanga and Taylor Christian Thomson, both 21, and 36-year-old Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun are among 50 defendants in the case. News24 reports that they were the first to stand before the judge to hear the charges against them. ‘These acts are punishable by death,’ the presiding judge of the Kinshasa-Gombe military court, Freddy Ehume, told them. The trial is being staged in the Ndolo military prison. News24 reports that 10 assault rifles and various other pieces of evidence are on display. The alleged coup bid occurred on 19 May when armed men attacked the home of Economy Minister Vital Kamerhe before moving onto the nearby Palais de la Nation that houses President Felix Tshisekedi's offices. They were allegedly filmed brandishing the flag of Zaire – the name of the country during the rule of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko – and chanting that Tshisekedi's government was over. The alleged plot was led by Christian Malanga, a Congolese national who was a ‘naturalised American’ and who was killed by security forces, army spokesman General Sylvain Ekenge has said. Four women are among the accused, as well as a Canadian, a Briton and a Belgian, Jean-Jacques Wondo, who are all naturalised Congolese. The charges include ‘attack, terrorism, illegal possession of weapons and munitions of war, attempted assassination, criminal association, murder (and) financing of terrorism’, according to the document. News24 notes that separate investigation is being carried out into extrajudicial executions which allegedly took place after the operation, when soldiers were filmed shooting at two suspected unarmed putschists, including one who had jumped into the Congo river to try to escape. Last March, the Congolese government lifted the moratorium on the death penalty which had been in force since 2003 in the country.

Full News24 report

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