November 27, 2019 / 1:52 PM / 10 days ago

Appeals judges uphold sentence for Congolese ex-vice president Bemba

FILE PHOTO: Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) waves to his supporters as he arrives at the N'djili International Airport in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe/File Photo

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday upheld a 12-month sentence and a fine of 300,000 euros ($330,000) for Jean-Pierre Bemba, former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for witness tampering.

Bemba will not have to go to jail because he has already served more than 10 years in ICC detention before being acquitted of war crimes charges in June 2018. The sentence was reduced due to time already served.

Presiding Judge Howard Morrison said: “In conclusion the appeals chamber rejects all three grounds of appeal advanced by mister Bemba and reconfirms” his sentence.

Bemba was not present in court on Wednesday. After his acquittal in his war crimes case last year he returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo and remains in Kinshasa.

Bemba headed the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) and its affiliated militia. After he lost an election to Joseph Kabila in 2006 he was sent to The Hague to stand trial for murder, rape and pillage committed by troops he sent into neighboring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003 to support its then-president Ange-Felix Patasse.

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.

Still, during his main trial Bemba and his lawyers were accused and ultimately convicted on lesser charges of witness tampering.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Alex Richardson

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