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Bemba’s Co-Accused Narcisse Arido Transferred to the ICC

Congolese national Narcisse Arido, who is accused of participating in witness tampering together with war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba, has today been transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Mr. Arido, who was arrested in France last November, was transferred to the court after a French appellate court rejected his appeal against extradition. He is due to make his initial appearance before an ICC pre-trial judge on Thursday, March 20.

Prosecutors claim that Mr. Arido received payments from two of Mr. Bemba’s former lawyers to provide false or forged documents and that he was an intermediary in transferring money to witnesses.

The lawyers, former lead counsel Aimé Kilolo-Musamba and case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, have been in custody at the ICC detention center since last November. They face similar charges of corrupting witnesses and presenting forged evidence in Mr. Bemba’s war crimes trial that opened in November 2010.

Mr. Arido is believed to be ‘Witness D04-11’ who was due to testify for the defense in Mr. Bemba’s ongoing trial in September 2012 but did not board the flight booked for him to The Hague. Instead, he is said to have misused the visa secured for his appearance before the court to travel to France.

A fifth individual facing witness tampering charges is Congolese Member of Parliament Fidèle Babala Wandu. He is a former assistant to Mr. Bemba when he was a vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is in the court’s custody.

In support of the application for arrest warrants against the suspects, the prosecution submitted evidence of money transfers through international services, telephone call records, transcripts, translations and summaries of recorded communications, text messages, witness statements, and e-mails.

On November 20, ICC pre-trial judge Cuno Tarfusser issued an arrest warrant against the five individuals, stating that there were reasonable grounds to believe that since early 2012, a criminal scheme had been “affording benefits and advantages to certain defense witnesses in exchange for false testimony and the presentation of false or forged evidence.”

At their initial appearances before judge Tarfusser, Mr. Bemba, the two defense lawyers, and Mr. Babala denied the charges and expressed surprise that the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, had chosen to secure an arrest warrant rather than deal with the witness tampering allegations during proceedings in Mr. Bemba’s ongoing trial.

When Mr. Arido makes his initial appearance on Thursday, the judge will verify his identity and the language in which he is able to follow the proceedings. He will also be informed of the charges against him.