Congo arrests senior opposition member on ICC warrant

KINSHASA Sun Nov 24, 2013 4:46pm EST

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KINSHASA (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo arrested a senior opposition politician on Sunday after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant accusing him of trying to influence the war crimes trial of former presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The ICC said in a statement that Fidèle Babala Wandu's arrest was part of a wider operation to bring other Bemba associates based in Europe into custody for allegedly influencing witnesses in his case.

Bemba faces trial at the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes because of actions allegedly committed by his rebel group in neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

The ICC said that Judge Cuno Tarfusser had issued arrest warrants for Wandu, deputy secretary of Bemba's opposition MLC party, two members of Bemba's defence team - Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo - and defence witness Narcisse Arido.

"The Belgian authorities arrested Aimé Kilolo Musamba, the Dutch authorities arrested Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, and Narcisse Arido was arrested by the French authorities," read the statement.

Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende confirmed the arrest of Wandu.

"He was arrested at 1.30 a.m. immediately following a demand from the ICC," Mende told Reuters by telephone. "He is in the process of being transferred to the Hague."

Representatives from the MLC were not immediately answering calls for comment.

(Reporting by Pete Jones; editing by Andrew Roche)

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