Charge added in DRC plot case

2013-02-28 13:28

The state has added the charge of conspiracy to commit murder against twenty Congolese men arrested in Limpopo in connection with orchestrating a botched coup in their native Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The men were initially facing one charge of contravening the Foreign Military Assistance Act.

State attorney Shaun Abrahams said the men, believed to be members of M23 rebels, would face charges for plotting to kill incumbent DRC President Laurent Kabila “and members of his Cabinet”.

The men, who had a vocal group of supporters outside court, appeared before Pretoria Magistrate Solly Mkhabela to apply for bail yesterday.

But the bail application was postponed after the men’s lawyers said they were not ready to proceed with the application, which angered Mkhabela.

“By now I thought you would have met with the your clients and got your ducks in a row,” said Mkhabela.

There was a heavy police presence in and outside court with armed members from the SA Revenue Service’s customs unit also keeping watch.

Supporters of the accused, mainly DRC expats, were vocal outside court and the few who were let inside the courtroom raised the peace sign to the accused as they sat in court.

They said Kabila was not the “rightful” leader of DRC and accused him of being a dictator who is against democracy.

The DRC sent two people, thought to be lawyers, to observe proceedings, said Mkhabela, who also allowed journalists to film the proceedings, overturning an earlier ruling by the high court against the recording of court proceedings by the media.

“This is not only a case of national or continental importance, this is a matter of international importance, said Mkhabela when delivering his ruling on the media in court.

The bail hearing was postponed to March 6.

The state has indicated it would oppose bail on the grounds that the men were “a danger to the lives of South Africans, the DRC President and his Cabinet”.

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