23 June 2006

Congo-Kinshasa: Journalist Sentenced to Four Months in Prison And Payment of $5,000 in Damages

press release

On 23 June 2006, Kazadi Kwambi Kasumpata, freelance correspondent for the Kinshasa-based weekly newspaper "Lubilanji Expansion", was sentenced to four months in prison and payment of US$5,000 in damages and interest for "harmful allegations" against the Protestant University of Congo (UPC).

As of 23 June, the journalist, who has been jailed at the state penitentiary in Kinshasa (Centre Pénitentiaire et de Rééducation de Kinshasa, CPRK) since 22 April, had not received any notification of this ruling. According to the Congolese Code of Criminal Procedure, Kasumpata has 10 days from the day of the verdict to launch an appeal.

"Everything is happening as if the journalist had already been sentenced before being judged, as shown by the swiftness of his arrest, his long detention in prison and the way in which the verdict was given, almost secretly, to avoid any recourse," said JED's Secretary-General Tshivis Tshivuadi. "The Congolese justice system still has much to do to prove that it is independent and credible."

In its 7 March issue (number 188) the paper published an article entitled, "Scandal at the Protestant University of Congo", in which Kasumpata accused the university of embezzlement and mismanagement of donations. The journalist was detained on 20 April at the Gombe High Court prison and transferred 48 hours later to the CPRK. On 24 May, the same High Court ordered that the accused be provisionally released, but this order was never executed.

Informed by JED on 23 June of the sentence against him, Kasumpata authorised his lawyers to appeal the ruling on the grounds that he was "badly tried".

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