Arusha — Former Congolese militiaman Mathieu Ngudjolo, acquitted by the International Criminal Court in December, is currently "held in an asylum seekers' hostel" in the Netherlands, according to one of his lawyers, Jean-Pierre Kilenda.
Ngudjolo was acquitted on December 18, for lack of evidence of his criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during a February 2003 attack on a village in Ituri, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
He came out of jail three days later, after the Court rejected a prosecutor's request to keep him in the ICC prison in The Hague until appeals procedures are completed.
"He has been detained since December 21 in a centre for asylum seekers," Kilenda told Hirondelle. According to the lawyer, Ngudjolo was arrested by the Dutch police as he came out of jail because he did not have a residence permit.
The authorities were going to expel him, but he argued he faced a risk of persecution in the DRC, Kilenda said in a phone interview. "And so he put in a request for asylum which is currently being processed. He receives visits from lawyers for this Dutch procedure and from us, his ICC lawyers."
According to him, all Ngudjolo's family are still living in Ituri. Asked whether they had been threatened, Kilenda replied that he had no idea.
Ngudjolo was indicted in connection with a massacre in Bogoro on February 24, 2003. The judges dismissed the testimonies of three "key" prosecution witnesses who testified under a pseudonym to Ngudjolo's presence at the crime scenes. The Court said their testimonies were too contradictory or imprecise.
During the trial, Ngudjolo told the court he was not in Bogoro on the day of the attack but was delivering a baby in Kabutso. He claimed he was simply a nurse, not a militia leader.