Congolese ex-militia chief can go free unless appeal: ICC

15th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The International Criminal Court ruled Thursday that Congolese militia chief Thomas Lubanga should be freed after his war crimes trial was suspended, unless prosecutors mount an appeal.

Presiding judge Adrian Fulford said Lubanga should be "freed without conditions" as his detention "is no longer fair" given the suspension of the trial last week.

But the court also said Lubanga must remain behind bars for another five days to give the prosecution time to file an appeal against the decision.

If such an appeal bid is accepted, Lubanga will have to stay in prison until that process is finalised.

Lubanga, 49, has been standing trial since January 2009 accused of using children under the age of 15 to fight for his militia during the 1997-2002 civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last week, the ICC ruled to suspend his trial after rapping chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo for abusing court processes and ignoring judges' orders.

Judges had ordered the prosecutor to disclose to Lubanga's defence team the name of an "intermediary", but he refused.

The defence claimed that false evidence had been fabricated with the assistance of intermediaries used by the prosecutor to find witnesses, and that individuals were paid to give false testimony.

The court found that as long as the prosecutor refused to implement judges' orders, Lubanga could not be guaranteed a fair trial.

Lubanga surrendered to the ICC in March 2006.

His trial, the ICC's first, was initially to have started in June 2008 but was stalled until the following year when the court ruled that prosecutors wrongly withheld evidence potentially favourable to his defence.

© 2010 AFP

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