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DR Congo rights activist killing to be tried by lower court

by Staff Writers
Kinshasa (AFP) Dec 16, 2010
A military court trying eight policemen for the killing of Democratic Republic of Congo human rights activist Floribert Chebeya on Thursday rejected demands by his family that the case be heard by a higher tribunal.

The ruling will mean, according to the family, that the man they consider to be the prime suspect, police chief General John Numbi, cannot be tried, since generals can only be tried by the senior military court.

Numbi, who has been suspended from duty, appeared at an earlier hearing on November 12, but only as a witness.

Judges described the applications for the trial to be moved and for bail as "unfounded" and adjourned the case until December 23.

Chebeya, 47, president of the human rights group Voice of the Voiceless (La Voix des sans Voix - VSV), was found dead on June 2 in his car with his hands tied behind his back on the outskirts of Kinshasa after a scheduled meeting, which never took place, with General Numbi.

Chebeya's chauffeur, Fidele Bazana, who had accompanied him, is still reported missing and his body has never been found.

VSV and Banzana's family, along with the family of Chebeya, are also civil parties in the case and supported the request for the trial to be heard by a higher court.

Apart from the chief of special services of police, Colonel Daniel Mukalay, the other defendants include a major, a lieutenant, a second lieutenant and a warrant officer. Two majors and a warrant officer are being tried in their absence.

All eight are accused, according to the charge sheet, of criminal association, kidnapping, murder, assassination, terrorism and purloining arms. The three absent men are also on trial for desertion.

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