14 January 2014

Congo-Kinshasa: Bemba Names New Defense Team

Photo: Radio Okapi
Jean-Pierre Bemba at the Hague.

Jean-Pierre Bemba has named his new defense team following the arrest last November of his lead defense counsel Aimé Kilolo-Musamba and case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo.

In a December 23, 2013 filing, he confirmed Peter Haynes as the lead counsel, with Kate Gibson as the co-counsel. Mr. Haynes was previously the co-counsel, while Ms. Gibson also served on the defense team.

Other members named on the team are Gueneal Mettraux, Melinda Taylor, Natacha Lebaindre, Cecile Lecolle, and Cindy Josseran.

Mr. Kilolo-Musamba, who had been the lead counsel to the Congolese opposition leader since February 2012, was arrested along with Mr. Kabongo on charges of bribing witnesses and presenting to court evidence they knew was forged or false. The two lawyers are under detention in The Hague.

At the time of these arrests, the defense had just completed presenting its evidence and started compiling its closing statement. During his initial appearance before the pre-trial judge, Mr. Kilolo-Musamba said that when he was arrested at an airport in Brussels, International Criminal Court (ICC) officials confiscated his iPad and Blackberry phone, which contained "the entire defense strategy."

According to prosecutors, investigations concluded that Mr. Haynes and Ms. Gibson were not involved in the alleged witness tampering and evidence forgery. The prosecution also said it did not intend to call Mr. Haynes or Ms. Gibson as witnesses in the new case.

Mr. Kilolo-Musamba became the lead counsel for Mr. Bemba following the death of Nkwebe Liriss, who had hitherto led the defense team.

Mr. Bemba has been in ICC detention since July 2008. Over the least three years, he has been on trial for allegedly failing to discipline his Movement for the Liberation of Congo soldiers, who prosecutors allege committed rape, murder, and pillaging in the Central African Republic. The crimes were reportedly committed during an armed conflict in that country during 2002 and 2003.

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