18 December 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: ICC Orders Release of Mathieu Ngudjolo

The Hague — Judges of the International Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon rejected a prosecution request to keep Mathieu Ngudjolo in custody pending appeal against his acquittal.

The Court earlier acquitted Ngudjolo of all charges in connection with an attack in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003.

Presiding judge Bruno Cotte said the Court was not persuaded of any "exceptional circumstances" which would justify Ngudjolo's continued detention, and that "the office of the Prosecutor has not shown that such circumstances exist".

Immediately after pronouncing Ngudjolo's acquittal on Tuesday morning, judges asked prosecutors to say if they were requesting a suspension of the release order. A few hours later, the Chamber held a new session but the prosecution appeared disconcerted. Expected to argue exceptional circumstances that would justify keeping Ngudjolo in custody, Canadian prosecutor Eric McDonald instead started by challenging the judgment.

McDonald then argued that if he were freed, Ngudjolo could disappear or intimidate witnesses.

At the end of the afternoon, Ngudjolo left the Court and returned to prison. His lawyers, Jean-Piertre Fofé and Jean-Pierre Kilenda said they did not yet know where their client would go once released. His family live in Bunia, in eastern DRC.

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