30 October 2012

Central African Republic: Witness Denies Being Coached By Bemba's Lawyers

A witness testifying for Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has denied that defense lawyers helped him prepare his testimony.

Under cross-examination by prosecution lawyer Jean-Jacques Badibanga, 'Witness D04-55' also denied receiving any monetary contributions to his travel expenses for meetings with the defense team.

'Witness D04-55' started testifying yesterday in the trial of Mr. Bemba. All of his evidence yesterday was heard in closed session. This morning, Mr. Badibanga asked him whether defense lawyers had coached him on what to say in court.

"They didn't tell me the account I had to give the chamber. Nobody can prepare me for what I have to say," the witness responded.

The witness said he met all of his expenses for meetings with Mr. Bemba's lawyers. "They were totally paid for by myself," he said. The number of meetings between the defense team and the witness was not disclosed.

He explained that during the meetings at an undisclosed location, a member of the defense team took written notes. However, he was not provided with records or transcripts of the meetings for him to sign.

Mr. Badibanga then informed judges that subsequent questioning of the witness had to be done in closed session. Hearings remained in closed session for the rest of the day.

Prosecutors charge that troops belonging to the Movement for the Liberation of Congo committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 2002-2003 conflict in the Central African Republic. As their commander, Mr. Bemba is being held criminally responsible for the alleged murder, rape, and pillaging carried out by his fighters.

Hearings are scheduled to continue tomorrow morning.

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