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Bemba Soldiers Used Plane to Ferry Looted Goods to Congo

At the end of his two weeks of testimony, a witness today stated that he saw soldiers belonging to the group led by war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba ferry looted goods from the Central African Republic (CAR).

‘Witness 209’ asserted that he saw Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers load pillaged items into an aircraft that landed in the Central African town of Sibut.

“A plane landed at the headquarters of the Banyamulenge [MLC soldiers] and took away some goods,” he said. According to him, the plundered goods were transported to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Peter Haynes, the witness stated that among the goods he saw the Congolese soldiers loading into the plane were motorcycles, refrigerators, and generator sets.

‘Witness 209,’ who testified with voice and image distortion in order to protect his identity, also described the aircraft as “green with white parts.” He said that when the plane took off from Sibut, it headed in the direction of Bangui, the capital of the CAR.

During 2002-2003, then CAR president Ange-Félix Patassé was faced with an armed rebellion, prompting him to call upon Mr. Bemba’s troops to help beat off the uprising. Prosecutors of the International Criminal Court charge that the MLC carried out mass rapes, killings, and pillaging in the country and that Mr. Bemba as their commander-in-chief did not act to reign in his rampaging soldiers.

Throughout his testimony, ‘witness 209′ has recounted the MLC’s widespread looting of property during their occupation of the town of Damara.

After the witness completed his testimony, Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner announced that the upcoming prosecution witness, going by the pseudonym ‘witness 110,’ was unable to take the stand in the afternoon as he had had a tooth extracted yesterday.

Judge Steiner said that according the court’s Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) assessment, “the witness did not sleep well and has a lot of difficulty speaking.”  Court was adjourned until tomorrow morning when ‘witness 110’ will start giving evidence.