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Wed May 25 22:48:42 SAST 2016

DR Congo to prosecute militia leader Katanga, convicted by ICC: minister

AFP | 18 January, 2016 11:47
Congolese warlord Germain Katanga is seen on the television screens in the pressroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) during his trial in The Hague, Netherlands.
Image by: POOL / REUTERS

The Democratic Republic of Congo plans to prosecute notorious militia leader Germain Katanga, who had been scheduled to leave prison in Kinshasa on Monday after completing a prison term handed down by the International Criminal Court, the country's justice minister said.

"He will not leave" prison, Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told AFP in an interview, adding that Katanga was implicated "in other cases just as serious" as the one for which he was convicted by the ICC in 2014 - that of arming an ethnic militia that carried out a brutal village massacre.

He said there are two other cases pending against Katanga.

One concerns his alleged role in the killing of nine UN peacekeepers in the violence-torn Ituri region in the east of the country in 2005, Thambwe Mwamba said.

The other, which is with armed forces prosecutors, involves "contacts" that Katanga "continues to have with other officers who are being prosecuted."

The minister declined to give further details on this second case in order not to violate the confidentiality of the investigation.

He said the trial would be "fair" and Katanga would have "access to all the lawyers that he wants to defend himself".

Katanga, 37, dubbed "Simba" the lion due to his ferocity, was sentenced to 12 years in prison last year by the ICC for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes over the 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro, including murder and pillage.

Katanga was accused of supplying weapons to his militia in the attack in which some 200 people were shot and hacked to death with machetes.

In November, the ICC cut his sentence after he voiced regret and for good behaviour, and he had been scheduled to complete his prison term on Monday.

Last month Katanga and former warlord Thomas Lubangato, sentenced to 14 years by the ICC for recruiting and enlisting child soldiers, were transferred to a prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo to serve out their sentences.

Lubanga's request for early release was turned down by the ICC as "unjustified".

Arrested in 2005 and then transferred to The Hague in 2007, Katanga was only the second person to be sentenced by the tribunal since it began work in 2003 as the world's first permanent court to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He has offered his apologies to the victims, insisting he had turned his back on the militias which still wreak havoc in parts of the DR Congo.

A former member of the armed fighters of the Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri (FRPI), Katanga had said he wanted to live with his six children in his country and be a farmer.

The Ituri region where the Bogoro massacre occurred has been riven by violence since 1999, when clashes broke out that killed at least 60,000 people, according to rights groups.

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