Supporters of Vital Kamerhe gathered in Kinsasha on Friday only to discover the appeal hearing of the former chief of staff to Democratic Republic of Congo President Félix Tshisekedi had been postponed again. It has now been pushed back a further two weeks to August 21st.
Mr Kamerhe was found guility in June of embezzlement, corruption and money laundering. He was sentenced to 20 years of forced labour and 10 years of ineligibility to hold public office.
Aimé Boji, Secretary General of the opposition Union for the Congolese Nation party said he has no doubt of Mr Kamerhe's innocence:
"The justice system is unable to prove the guilt of the defendant, which is why, today, there is no doubt that this is a political trial."
During the morning, several hundred supporters of Mr. Kamerhe protested outside UNC party headquarters, chanting "Kamerhe innocent" and holding banners, one of which read: "Kamerhe trial, political trial ". Traffic was disrupted for several hours.
Mr Kamerhe had been sentenced ‐ along with Lebanese entrepreneur Jammal Samih ‐ for the embezzlement of around $US 50 million. He has continued to maintain his innocence.
His lawyer Me Jean-Marie Kabengela said that the hearing had been postponed for procedural reasons:
"We are worried about this way of doing things in court; our client was hastily sentenced in the first place, questions of procedure are (being) raised (in the appeal)
"Our client is ready to demonstrate from start to finish that he is innocent".
On July 31, Mr. Kamerhe's French lawyer, Me Pierre-Olivier Sur, announced that Kinshasa had refused to grant him a visa to visit Senegal and defend his client at the appeal.
A former President of the National Assembly, Mr Kamerhe withdrew in favour of the current head of state Tshisekedi during the Presidential election campaign in late 2018.