Congo Court Convicts Soldiers

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A Democratic Republic of Congo court convicted seven soldiers on Thursday for the murder of suspected militia members in the country’s insurgent ravaged Kasai region.

The court in the central Congolese city of Mbuji Mayi, sentenced two army majors to 20 years in prison and three other soldiers to 15 years for murder and improperly disposing of weapons, defense lawyer Jimmy Bashile said.

A video of the massacre showed soldiers shooting people, some of them young women, at point-blank range and provoked international condemnation when it appeared in February.

Two soldiers were sentenced in absentia to capital punishment, Bashile added, although Congo has observed a moratorium on the death penalty for more than a decade.

One other soldier received a 12 month suspended sentence for failing to denounce the crimes, while another was acquitted for lack of evidence, Bashile said.

All of the defendants who were convicted plan to appeal their sentences, he added.

More than 3,000 people have been killed and 1.3 million displaced since the start of an insurrection last August by the Kamuina Nsapu militia, which demands that the government withdraw its forces.

At least 52 mass graves have also been found and several of the defendants in Mbuji Mayi had faced more serious war crimes charges, but those were dropped mid-trial.

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