International court sentences Bemba to time served

17 September 2018 - 17:29 By Reuters
Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) addresses a news conference in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. (File photo)
Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) addresses a news conference in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. (File photo)
Image: Kenny Katombe/Reuters

The International Criminal Court on Monday sentenced Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba to a €300,000 fine and a 12 month sentence for witness tampering, but his sentence was reduced to zero due to time already served.

Bemba was acquitted of war crimes on appeal in June, but had already been convicted on the lesser charge of witness tampering during his trial.

The politician has been barred from standing in December's presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo because of the conviction.

"Future accused persons can look at Bemba's conviction as a cautionary example as to what consequences obstructing the administration of justice can have," said judge Bertram Schmitt.

"Bemba's acquittal in the main case should have been the end of his exposure to the court, yet he continues to have the spectre of this institution hanging over him."

Bemba's surprise acquittal on war crimes charges in June raised the prospect he could return to Congo and re-enter politics. A final decision on whether the witness tampering conviction makes him ineligible to stand is expected on Wednesday.

Bemba headed the Movement for the Liberation of Congo party and its affiliated militia. After he lost an election to Laurent Kabila in 2006 he was sent to The Hague to stand trial for atrocities committed by his troops in the neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

His initial conviction was reversed on appeal in June, with judges saying prosecutors had failed to show he had enough control over troops to bear responsibility for their wrongdoing and he could not be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the witness tampering conviction remains.

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