26 February 2014

Central African Republic: Bemba's Lawyer Seeks to Interview Anonymous Prosecution Informant

Jean-Pierre Bemba's lawyers have asked International Criminal Court (ICC) judges to permit them to obtain information that will help to identify the unnamed informant who tipped off the prosecution that the Congolese politician was bribing witnesses.

In a February 20, 2014 filing, defense lawyer Nicholas Kaufman said he needed to contact and interview the individual in order to check the veracity of the information he provided.

He said the informant's actions may have been politically motivated, or he could be connected to witnesses who will testify for the prosecution.

"Alternatively, it is more than feasible that the anonymous informant could possess information which could exonerate the suspect," stated Mr. Kaufman, who is representing Mr. Bemba in the new case.

Last November, charges of witness bribery and coaching were brought against Mr. Bemba, his then lead counsel Aimé Kilolo-Musamba, and case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo. Also charged were Narcisse Arido, a defense witness, and Fidèle Babala Wandu, a member of the Congolese parliament.

Investigations into the alleged crimes started in May 2013 after the informant anonymously provided the prosecutor "verifiable" information on money transfers made by Mr. Bemba's lawyers to witnesses.

Last month, Mr. Bemba's lawyer wrote to the prosecutor inquiring about the name by which the informant identified himself, the email address he used, and the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from which the emails were sent. In the alternative, Mr. Kaufman sought the disclosure of a redacted version of the email exchanges between the informant and prosecution staff.

The prosecution rejected both requests, stating that information provided by the informant was not being relied on directly or indirectly as evidence in the new case against Mr. Bemba.

Mr. Kaufman had argued that the information sought was material to the preparation of the defense case and establishing the truth.

"Knowing the exact nature of the email exchange between the informant and the prosecutor will permit the suspect to independently assess whether all exonerating circumstances have been considered and investigated," he said.

He further argued that the IP address used by the informant would allow the defense to petition judges for an order requesting that national authorities reveal the owner of that address. This would help in identifying the person who communicated with the prosecutor.

Furthermore, Mr. Kaufman argued that because a judge recently granted a prosecution request for information on an account managed on behalf of Mr. Bemba at the detention center to enable their investigations, "The defense now requests that the single judge grants equal investigative latitude to the suspect."

Mr. Bemba has from November 2010 been on trial at the ICC over murder, rape, and pillaging purportedly committed by his Movement for the Liberation of Congo troops during a 2002-2003 armed conflict in the Central African Republic.

Since Mr. Bemba and his co-accused made their initial appearances before pre-trial judge Cuno Tarfusser, prosecutors and the defense have been filing evidence and submissions that the judge will use to make the decision on confirmation of the charges.

Judge Tarfusser has ordered the prosecutor and the defense teams of the other suspects to file their responses to Mr. Bemba's request by Monday, March 3, 2014.

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