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DR Congo: Judge under fire over Katumbi saga

Democratic Republic Of Congo

<p>The DR Congo’s government has been caught up in a judiciary crisis after a senior judge said she was pressured into sentencing opposition figure Moise Katumbi to a three-year jail term .</p> <p>The <span class="caps">DRC</span> officials expressed doubt over the authenticity of the letter denouncing interference in issuing judgement to Katumbi’s case.</p> <p>Speaking to Africanews, the Communications minister Lambert Mende claimed that the document was directed to the irrelevant parties thus casting more doubt on its legality.</p> <p>“ I can tell you that a lawyer who understands the law, knows that any judge relies on the Minister of Justice. He cannot address a letter to someone who is unreliable. She should have addressed her letter to the President of the Higher Council of the judiciary who is the President of the Supreme Court of Justice,” he said.</p> <p>Authorities now suspects that judge Chantale Ramazani Wazuri had left for Belgium, where she is now hoping to win asylum. The Communication Minister further added that the letter would make no difference to Katumbi’s case as there was no proper channel used in raising the issue.</p> <p>“ it cannot change absolutely anything since even on the intellectual plan, you must understand that the judicial procedure takes place in a courtroom that is to say at the seat of the Tribunal, not in front of the press, nor in the social networks. A judge’s statue is in a tribunal or written to his authority,” he added.</p> <p>The ruling was handed down by a three-judge tribunal but in a letter seen by <span class="caps">AFP</span> on Wednesday, the presiding judge said officials had harassed her into signing the verdict and even threatened her with arrest if she did not comply.</p> Chantale Ramazani Wazuri wrote in the letter addressed to the government, the European Union, the African Union and UN representatives accused the head of DR Congo’s intelligence services, Kalev Mutond, and judicial authorities in the country’s second city Lubumbashi of putting “physical and moral” pressure on her to “go beyond” the scope of the law. <p>The Congolese presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi was sentenced in absentia to 36 months in prison after having been found guilty of illegally selling a property in Lubumbashi, his eastern power base.</p> <p>Several media have reported that his half-brother Raphael Katebe Katoto reported that Katumbi will be back to the capital Kinshasa for a large rally billed for 31 July by the Opposition platform.</p>
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