March 21, 2017 / 8:44 PM / 2 years ago

Congo Republic opposition leader's appeal against jail term fails

BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) - A court in Congo Republic on Tuesday threw out a challenge to opposition leader Paulin Makaya’s prison sentence for his role in protests against a third term for President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Makaya was sentenced to two years in jail last July on four counts including “incitement to disturb public order” during a demonstration in October 2015, when thousands of people took to the streets to protest against a referendum on a third term for Sassou Nguesso.

He has repeatedly denied the charges.

Sassou Nguesso has ruled Congo for all but five years since 1979, and was re-elected in March 2016 after the referendum passed.

“We have the possibility of appealing to the court of cassation within two to three days,” his lawyer Yvon Éric Ibouanga told journalists in Brazzaville, after Makaya’s defeat in the appeals court.

“We continue to believe that we can one day obtain a decision grounded in the law.”

Four people were killed at the march in October 2015 when security forces opened fire on a crowd that had refused to disperse. Residents said the violence was the worst since Sassou Nguesso retook power in 1997 at the end of a brief civil war.

Makaya was also charged a 2.5 million CFA franc ($4,086.30) fine. He is not the only opposition figure to face Congo’s justice system.

Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, the former army chief and a power broker in the former French colony’s 1990s civil war, is on trial for allegedly violating state security and illegally possessing weapons of war. He was denied bail in August.

Mokoko finished third to Sassou Nguesso in the 2016 election criticized by opposition parties and foreign powers for irregularities.

Reporting by Philon Bondenga and Bouka Roch; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Richard Lough

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