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Defendants in Italian ambassador murder case in DR Congo request bail

Suspects arraigned in DR Congo's military court in Kinshasa in the murder of Italian ambassador   -  
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Democratic Republic Of Congo

Five defendants accused of involvement in last year's murder of the Italian ambassador to DR Congo requested bail Wednesday during a military court hearing in the capital Kinshasa.

According to AFP reporters present at the hearing, one of the lawyers representing the Congolese defendants asked for his clients to be bailed from prison because "they are purely and simply innocent".

A sixth person allegedly implicated in the murder is on the run.

Italy's ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Luca Attanasio, was among three people killed on February 22, 2021, when a United Nations convoy was ambushed in the country's troubled east.

The other fatalities were driver Mustapha Milambo and Italian police officer Vittorio Iacovacci.

Lawyer Joseph Amzati argued on Wednesday that the military court lacked the jurisdiction to try the defendants because they are civilians.

But prosecutor Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Malikidogo said a military tribunal was appropriate because the accused had allegedly used "weapons and munitions of war" in the attack.

He added that releasing the defendants would be scandalous because of the "indescribable gravity" of their alleged crimes.

Congolese police announced in January that they had arrested the alleged perpetrators of the 2021 attack, describing the ambush as a kidnap-for-ransom attempt gone wrong.

The trial began on October 12 but it was immediately suspended at the request of the defence lawyers, who argued that they had not seen the case file. The next hearing is expected on October 26.

Much of eastern DRC is prey to armed groups, many of which are a legacy of regional wars that flared during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Militia attacks against civilians are routine in the volatile region.

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