I Coast cop jailed for killing reporter

23rd January 2004, Comments 0 comments

KINSHASA, Jan 23 (AFP) - The Ivory Coast police sergeant who was sentenced to 17 years in jail for killing French journalist Jean Helene should have been sentenced to life in prison, a Democratic Republic of Congo media rights group said Friday.

KINSHASA, Jan 23 (AFP) - The Ivory Coast police sergeant who was sentenced to 17 years in jail for killing French journalist Jean Helene should have been sentenced to life in prison, a Democratic Republic of Congo media rights group said Friday.

"We feel that 17 years in prison is highly insignificant for someone who voluntarily killed a journalist who was doing his job," said Journalists in Danger (JED) chief Donat Mbaya Tshimanga.

"JED wanted a more severe sentence, life imprisonment," he added.Ivorian police sergeant Theodore Seri was on Thursday sentenced to 17 years behind bars for killing Helene, 50, shot in the head at point-blank range on October 21 as he was waiting outside police headquarters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's economic hub, to interview a group of opposition politicians.

As well as the 17-year sentence, which exceeded by two years a prosecution recommendation, Seri was fined 500,000 CFA Francs (EUR 762, USD 969), stripped of his rank of sergeant in the national police, and denied the right to vote or to leave his home province for 10 years.

Scientific Research Minister Gerard Kamanda wa Kamanda, a member of DRC's fledgling interim government, said justice had been done in sentencing Seri and urged African governments to respect the right of journalists to freely practise their profession.

"In our countries, freedom of the press is an indispensable complement to the right to an education, and must be respected," said the minister.

"In our countries, we must maintain at least a minimum of justice and rule of law because they are essential to protect the weak against the strong," he said, adding that he considered the stiff sentence against Seri "normal."

Earlier this month, former rebels in northeastern DRC threatened to kill a journalist who accused them of ruling by terror, Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) has said.

"Threats hang heavily over Nicaise Kibel'Bel Oka, managing editor of the weekly Les Coulisses," RSF, or Reporters without Borders, said in a statement sent to AFP in early January, asking the Kinshasa government to protect him.

Les Coulisses, which is published in the northeastern town of Beni, in December denounced troops from the former rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy - Liberation Movement (RCD-ML) for reportedly lending support to Ugandan rebels from across the border.

The aim was "to create a climate of terror, allowing local leaders to maintain a strong military presence in the region", which remains one of the most volatile parts of DRC, the paper claimed.

The RCD-ML is one of several rebel groups in DRC to have transformed into a political party and joined the interim government set up in July last year, three months after a peace pact formally ended nearly five years of war that claimed up to 2.5 million lives in the vast former Zaire.


© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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