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    Belgium lets former Congo vice-president Bemba return


    The federal foreign affairs ministry has said it will give “a favourable response” to a request from the International Criminal Court in The Hague for the country to allow the return of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former vice-president of Congo. Bemba was previously exiled here, before being charged in The Hague with war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was acquitted last Friday.

    However his release is only temporary. He is still facing other charges, including intimidation and bribery of witnesses, but the Court agreed to his release while awaiting trial.

    Bemba’s wife and children are currently living in Rhode-Saint-Genese, where he was also living when he was arrested on a warrant from the International Court in 2008. He was originally sentenced in 2016 to 18 years – the toughest sentence the Court had ever handed down, but that conviction was overturned on appeal.

    A former businessman turned war lord, Bemba was accused of murder, rape and pillage in the Central African Republic. He later became vice-president of Congo. During his provisional release, the Court ordered him to refrain from commenting publicly on the ongoing case, not to change his address without permission, not to contact any of the witnesses in the case, and to turn himself in should the Court require it.

    A final judgement on the witness-tampering case is expected on 4 July.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times