Former Congo VP attends funeral ahead of war crimes trial

9th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Former DR Congo vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, who wants judges to free him pending judgement in his war crimes trial, left jail Wednesday to attend his father's funeral in Brussels.

BRUSSELS - Bemba, who was granted a temporary release from his jail in the Netherlands where he has spent the last year, was driven under escort to the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gidule, an AFP photographer said.

Surrounded by bodyguards, lawyers and supporters, Bemba took part in a two-hour ceremony marking the death of his father, the senator Jeannot Bemba Saolana, in the Belgian capital last week at the age of 67.

Bemba remained silent throughout, although supporters in the gathering chanted slogans and called for his release.

On June 15, the International Criminal Court ruled that Bemba would stand trial on three charges of war crimes and two counts of crimes against humanity for atrocities allegedly committed in the Central African Republic.

He will be tried in his capacity as military commander for acts of murder, rape and pillaging blamed on members of his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) from October 2002 to March 2003, not as a co-perpetrator.

No trial date has been set. His lawyers have been seeking is release until it starts.


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