Congolese lawmaker sentenced to death for treason

Congolese lawmaker sentenced to death for treason

In a highly contentious verdict, a Congolese military court has sentenced Edouard Mwangachuchu, a prominent lawmaker representing the Masisi constituency, to death on charges of treason and alleged involvement with the M23 rebel movement.

Mr Mwangachuchu, who also owns a mining company, was found guilty of illegal weapon possession, treason, and participating in the M23 insurrectionary movement.

The death penalty, while frequently handed down in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has not been executed for two decades and is typically commuted to life imprisonment. The public prosecutor had initially sought a life sentence for the 70-year-old legislator.

Notably, Mr Mwangachuchu was absent during the sentencing, which has drawn criticism from his lawyer, Thomas Gamakolo, who claims that the trial was tainted by “ethnic hatred and deductions.”

He argued that Mr Mwangachuchu was unfairly presumed guilty due to his Tutsi ethnicity and emphasised that there was no concrete evidence linking his client to Rwanda.

The M23 militia, led by Tutsi leaders, has gained control over parts of Congo’s North Kivu province since resurfacing in 2021. This has led to allegations from independent U.N. experts, the Kinshasa government, and several Western nations, including the United States and France, accusing Rwanda of actively supporting the M23 movement. Kigali vehemently denies these accusations.

In a surprising turn of events, Mr Mwangachuchu’s co-defendant, Robert Muchamalirwa, a police captain charged with “violation of orders,” was acquitted by the court, with an immediate order for his release.

As tensions escalate over the verdict, the case of Mr Mwangachuchu continues to stoke controversy, highlighting ethnic divisions within the region.

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