DR Congo court jails six activists

Saturday March 5 2016

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. PHOTO | AFP

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. PHOTO | AFP 

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A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday threw six activists behind bars over "attempting to incite a revolt", their lawyer said, as he branded the decision "shameful".

"Today, the court sentenced each of our clients to a six-month jail sentence for attempting to incite a revolt," said George Kapiamba, head of the activists' defence team.

"It's a shameful sentence that results from an unfair trial," he said.

Aged 23 to 28, the six are members of the prominent, non-violent Struggle for Change (Lucha) organisation, which is based in the east of the country.

They had initially been sentenced to two years, but their term has been reduced to six months on appeal.

The six were arrested during a strike called by the Congolese opposition on February 16, to mark the bloody crackdown on the "Christian march" of 1992, when many thousands of Roman Catholics rallied in a bid to persuade then dictator Mobutu Sese Seko to open the way for democracy.

Jose Maria Aranaz, who heads the UN human rights office in DR Congo, criticised the court's decision, adding that he was "concerned by the way the judicial system was being instrumentalised" to target civil society activists.

Since March 2015, a dozen Lucha members have been detained or sentenced in DR Congo.

Tension is running high in the resource-rich country, where opposition leaders believe that President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, wants to get round the constitution and run for office again, after his final mandate expires in December.