International Criminal Court fines Congo politician 300,000 euro for witness tampering

The International Criminal Court on Monday sentenced Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba to a 300,000 euro fine and a 12 month sentence for witness tampering, but his sentence was reduced to zero due to time already served.

Bemba was acquitted of war crimes on appeal in June but had already been convicted on the lesser charge of witness tampering during
his trial.

Bemba has been barred from standing in December's presidential election in Democratic Republic of Congo because of the conviction.

"Future accused persons can look at Mr. Bemba's conviction as a cautionary example as to what consequences obstructing the administration of justice can have," said Judge Bertram Schmitt.

"Mr. Bemba's acquittal in the main case should have been the end of his exposure to the court, yet he continues to have the specter of this institution hanging over him."

Bemba's surprise acquittal on war crimes charges in June raised the prospect he could return to Congo and re-enter politics. A final decision on whether the witness tampering conviction makes him ineligible to stand is expected Wednesday.

Bemba headed the Movement for the Liberation of Congo party and its affiliated militia. After he lost an election to Laurent Kabila in 2006 he was sent to The Hague to stand trial for atrocities committed by his troops in neighboring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

His initial conviction was reversed on appeal in June, with judges saying prosecutors had failed to show he had enough control over troops to bear responsibility for their wrongdoing and he could not be convicted beyond a resonable doubt.

However, the witness tampering conviction remains.

Bemba, who has family in both Belgium and Congo, did not attend Monday's ruling.


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