Top cops in court for killing activist
Kinshasa – Eight police officers face trial by a military court on kidnap and murder charges on Friday after the death of a leading Democratic Republic of Congo human rights activist, court officials said on Wednesday.
The national police special investigations section chief, Colonel Daniel Mukalay, is charged along with three majors and other ranking police officers for the murder of Floribert Chebeya, a dissident who was found dead in his car in June, the clerk of Kinshasa's Gombe military court told AFP on Wednesday.
The clerk said that three of the accused, two majors and a warrant officer, were on the run and would be tried in their absence.
Chebeya and his driver Fidele Bazana disappeared on June 1 after going to Kinshasa police headquarters where the president of the non-governmental organisation La Voix des Sans-Voix (VSV – The Voice of the Voiceless) had an appointment with police chief General John Numbi.
Meeting never took place
The meeting apparently never took place and Chebeya's body was found tied up on the back seat of his car the following day. The body of his chauffeur has not been found.
The death caused an international outcry and triggered demands for a transparent enquiry.
According to an autopsy report, Chebeya, 47, died of a heart attack after suffering physical abuse.
The autopsy, carried out by Dutch doctors on June 11, noted superficial cuts and some bleeding around the wrists, forearms and the legs caused by an external source but said that these wounds alone would not have caused death.
However the injuries pointed to strangulation and blows, the autopsy found.
Chebeya's VSV group has said that Numbi is the chief suspect in the death and has accused the government of "denial of justice" by placing the case with a military court which does not have jurisdiction to try the police chief. The court can only try officers from the rank of colonel down.
Only the highest military court can try the police chief, who has nevertheless been suspended from duty since the killing following a meeting of top defence officials presided over by President Joseph Kabila.
VSV says that leading business and political figures have promised that Numbi will be protected from prosecution in the affair.
Acting on Numbi’s orders
A source linked to the presidency told AFP that Mukalay had admitted the killing but said he was acting on Numbi's orders.
Lawyer Joseph Mukendi, speaking for some 30 defence lawyers representing the Chebaya and Bazana families and VSV as civil plaintiffs, told AFP: "We are going to seek the truth, go right to the end to ensure the prosecution of those who ordered the murder and those who carried it out."
In September, Chebeya's widow and five children left Kinshasa to settle in Canada.
The court said the defendants were charged with kidnapping, murder, terrorism and criminal association, while the three on the run were also accused of desertion.