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24.07.2020 Congo

Kamerhe appeal in DR Congo graft case postponed to August

By AFP
Kamerhe, an ally to two presidents, has been at the centre of power in DR Congo politics for more than a dozen years.  By Fabrice COFFRINI (AFP)
LISTEN JUL 24, 2020
Kamerhe, an ally to two presidents, has been at the centre of power in DR Congo politics for more than a dozen years. By Fabrice COFFRINI (AFP)

An appeal hearing for Vital Kamerhe, a top political figure in DR Congo who last month was sentenced to 20 years' hard labour, was postponed on Friday to August 7, his lawyer told AFP.

The delay was ordered "for procedural reasons," said attorney Jean-Marie Kabengela.

Kamerhe, 61, an ex-president of the National Assembly and former ally of President Felix Tshisekedi, was convicted on June 20 of diverting more than $50 million (44 million euros) of public funds.

The trial marked the first time a figure deemed untouchable in Congolese political life had been tried and convicted of corruption.

His sentence included disqualification from holding public office for 10 years.

Kamerhe and 79-year-old Lebanese businessman Jammal Samih were arrested in April and sentenced after a month-long trial in the central jail of Kinshasa, the capital.

His lawyers have appealed on the grounds that forced labour is banned under the Democratic Republic of Congo's constitution.

Kamerhe created and heads a political party, the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), and ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2011.

He was also an early contender in presidential elections in December 2018, but instead reached a deal with Tshisekedi under which he pulled out and campaigned alongside him.

He was then appointed chief of staff after Tshisekedi became president in January 2019.

On Thursday, hundreds of UNC supporters turned out to demonstrate in his stronghold, the eastern city of Bukavu in South Kivu province, and in Goma, in neighbouring North Kivu.

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