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Bemba’s Indicted Lawyer Denied Entry to The UK

The United Kingdom has revoked the visa for Jean-Pierre Bemba’s indicted lawyer Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, who is in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over witness tampering accusations. The visa was due to expire in August 2015.

In an October 22, 2014 letter to the court, the British embassy in The Hague stated that the UK had “decided to revoke the multiple entry visa issued to Mr Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, with immediate effect, on the grounds that a change of circumstances since the entry clearance was issued had removed the basis of his claim to be admitted to the United Kingdom.”

The letter was in response to a notification by the court to British authorities of a judge’s October 21 order to grant the lawyer interim release to UK territory. Mr. Kabongo, 35, a national of the Democratic Republic of Congo, had said he wanted to be released to the UK for which he held a valid visa and where his family resides.

Last month, pre-trial judge Cuno Tarfusser ordered the release of Mr. Kabongo and three of his co-accused as they awaited determination of whether the case against them would be dismissed or taken to trial.

However, while the other accused individuals were released, the ICC said Mr. Kabongo would be released as soon as the court’s Registry finalized the necessary arrangements. Congolese Member of Parliament Fidèle Babala-Wandu was released to his home country, defense witness Narcisse Arido to France, and Aimé Kilolo Musamba – the former head of Mr. Bemba’s defense team – to Belgium.

Judge Tarfusser considered that the continued detention of the four suspects would be disproportionate to the penalties for the offences charged. The quartet and Mr. Bemba are accused of bribing witnesses to provide false testimony in his ongoing war crimes trial. The alleged crimes carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

The four individuals were arrested last November and transferred to the ICC detention center in The Hague. It remains unknown where and when Mr. Kabongo will be released.