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New Witness Questioned About Bemba’s Visit to Bangui

A witness who started testifying today spoke briefly about the visit by war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba to the Central African Republic (CAR) capital Bangui but gave details of that visit in private session.

‘Witness D04-066’ testified at the trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the use of a pseudonym, and his face and voice were distorted in public rebroadcasts of his testimony. In the brief testimony he gave in open court, the witness stated that he was in Bangui between October 2002 and March 2003. It was during this period that Mr. Bemba had sent his Movement for the Liberation of Congo troops to that country, where insurgents were trying to topple President Ange-Félix Patassé.

“I didn’t see him myself but was informed he had come over and he spent approximately 45 minutes before going to Zongo and taking the airplane…everyone knew he was there,” he said.

The witness did not say what he was doing in Bangui, but he stated that he had a liaison office in the Congolese town of Zongo, which lies along the border with the CAR. The witness said that during the time he stayed in Bangui, he did not transmit any information to Mr. Bemba, as “it wasn’t in my purview.”

Mr. Bemba, 50, has pleaded not guilty to charges of neglecting his duties as a commander. Charges against him stem from his alleged failure to discipline his soldiers, who prosecutors say committed rapes, murders, and pillaging during their deployment in a conflict in the CAR. He denies the charges.

‘Witness D04-066’ continues his testimony next Monday morning.