Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

More than 50 defendants, including 6 with American, British, Canadian, and Belgian nationalities, appeared before the court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on charges of participating in a failed coup attempt.

Armed men briefly occupied the presidential office in the capital, Kinshasa, on May 19 before security forces killed their US-based Congolese political leader, Christian Malanga.

The defendants include Malanga’s 22-year-old son, Marcel Malanga, and other Americans, as well as three holding foreign passports, all of whom have Congolese roots.

The military trial began on its first day under a tent in the courtyard of the Ndolo military prison on the outskirts of Kinshasa, and the defendants wore blue and yellow prison shirts and lined up before the judge.

All 53 defendants face charges that include possession of illegal weapons, criminal conspiracy, terrorism, and attempting to destabilize state institutions and undermine their integrity, charges that could lead to the death penalty or long prison sentences.

The defendants were identified in court and read the charges against them, but they were not asked to enter a plea.

Congo lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in March, citing treason and espionage in recurring armed conflicts as reasons.

Richard Bondo, the lawyer for one of the American detainees, Benjamin Zalman Polon, told Reuters that it was too early to talk about the possibility of his extradition, stressing that the presumption of innocence applies to him, and it was not possible to reach the other defendants or their lawyers for comment.

On May 19, the Congolese army announced that it had thwarted a “coup attempt” in the capital, Kinshasa, “in which foreigners and Congolese participated.”

Armed Forces spokesman, General Sylvain Ekenji, said in a brief message broadcast on state television that “the defense and security forces thwarted a coup attempt in its infancy,” stressing that this attempt involved foreigners and Congolese, and that “all of them were neutralized, including their leader.”

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