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International court rules Bemba to stay in jail

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 - 19:31

The Hague: International Criminal Court
appeals judges today reversed a decision to release former
Congo Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba from custody, ordering
him to stay in jail until his trial.

The court in August ordered Bemba freed, saying he
would otherwise spend too much time in custody after his
arrest in May 2008.

But appeals judge Akua Kuenyehia ruled today there was
a risk Bemba would flee if released.

"The potential length of sentence if he is convicted
is a further incentive for him to abscond," Kuenyehia said.

Bemba faces a possible lengthy prison sentence, although the
court`s statutes mention no maximum term.

Bemba did not react to the decision and said nothing
at the brief hearing, but one of his lawyers told reporters
they would continue to fight for his release.

"We expect this issue to be examined again by the
pretrial judges," said attorney Aime Kilolo.

Bemba faces five counts of murder, rape and pillage
for allegedly commanding a militia responsible for atrocities
in the Central African Republic. That country`s President at
the time, Ange-Felix Patasse, had appealed to Bemba`s militia
for help in defeating a coup.

He has not entered a plea ahead of his trial, which is
scheduled to start April 27 next year.


First Published: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 - 19:31
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