7 March 2019

Congo-Brazzaville: Ex-Minister Gets 20 Years of Forced Labour for Threatening State Security

A leading Congolese opposition figure on Wednesday was sentenced to hard labour for threatening state security and illegal possession of arms and ammunition. Andre Okombi Salissa, who in 2016 challenged President Denis Sassou Nguesso for the presidency of the Republic of Congo, had denied the charges against him and said the weapons had been planted in an apartment owned by his wife.

"It was difficult for the defendant to escape conviction," said Emmanuel Oko, a lawyer acting for the prosecution.

Salissa and three other accomplices were found guilty and all sentenced to 20 years of forced labour in the verdict read by Christian Oba, president of the court.

"The sentence that was imposed on the accused appears consistent," said Gerard Deviller, a member of the prosecution team.

Salissa's defence team walked out of the trial in protest, saying afterwards that they were not surprised by the verdict.

"The entire investigation was one-sided with a lack of evidence," said lawyer Yvon Eric Ibouanga, adding that Salissa would appeal the verdict.

The Congolese opposition politician had told the court that he had done enough to prove his innocence and the case against him had not "fooled" anybody.

Salissa had earlier told the court that the case against him was being brought because he had challenged Sassou Nguesso for the presidency.

He was once a leading member of the ruling Congolese Labour Party and served as a minister. However, he swapped to the opposition in 2016 to contest the polls and never recognised Sassou Nguesso's re-election.

Salissa joins General Jean-Marie Michel who similarly contested the 2016 polls and was last year also jailed for 20 years for threatening state security.

Sassou Nguesso has ruled Congo Brazzaville for some 35 years with two spells as president. His election in 2002 and re-election in 2009 were both disputed by the country's opposition parties.

Congo-Brazzaville

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