The verdict in the first evidence tampering trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be delivered on October 19, according to an order issued today by judges. The judgement will be delivered in open court at 14:30 local time in The Hague.
Former Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, along with his two former lawyers Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo and two other associates, stand accused of bribing and coaching witnesses to provide false testimony to the court. These 14 defense witnesses testified in Bemba’s trial over rape, murder, and pillaging by his Movement for the Liberation of Congo troops. Earlier this year, Bemba was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison, but he is appealing both the conviction and the sentence.
According to the prosecution, Bemba, through his former lawyers, as well as Congolese legislator Fidèle Babala Wandu and former defense witness Narcisse Arido, paid witnesses as an inducement for them to provide false testimony. Furthermore, the prosecution claims that defense lawyers coached witnesses and maintained improper contacts with them, including making phone calls to the witnesses while they were in The Hague testifying for Bemba.
Judges have ordered the five accused persons to be present at the delivery of the judgment. In October 2014, Kilolo, Mangenda, Babala, and Arido were released after nearly a year in ICC detention, after pre-trial chamber Judge Cuno Tarfusser determined that the time they had spent in detention had become unreasonable.
When he addressed court last May at as part of the final oral statements in the trial, Kilolo denied knowing that witnesses were giving false evidence. “Nothing suggested to us or to me that the witnesses were lying about the events they were describing or their participation in the events,” he said in an unsworn statement. “All the counsels, all the legal assistants were convinced that these witnesses were clearly credible, clearly relevant.”
The trial opened on September 29, 2015 before Trial Chamber VII composed of judges Bertram Schmitt, presiding, Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, and Raul C. Pangalangan. Most of the witnesses testified in closed session.