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DR Congo jails six for life over Italian envoy's murder

DR Congo jails six for life over Italian envoy's murder
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Democratic Republic Of Congo

A military tribunal in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa on Friday sentenced six men to life in prison for murdering Italy's ambassador in 2021.

Public prosecutors had originally sought the death penalty for the six accused calling them members of a "criminal gang".

Luca Attanasio was among three people shot dead on February 22, 2021, when a United Nations convoy was ambushed in the DRC's troubled east.

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

On Friday, lawyers for the six Congolese men said they would appeal the life terms.

Five of the men are being held in prison in Kinshasa, while the other is on the run.

During previous hearings, the prosecution cast the defendants as criminals who had initially intended to kidnap the ambassador and demand a $1 million ransom.

The defendants, who were arrested in January 2022, denied any wrongdoing and said their initial confessions were extracted through torture.

Their lawyers also argued that the prosecution had failed to offer evidence in support of the murder charges, and pushed for acquittal.

On Friday, the military tribunal also awarded damages to Italy to the Congolese franc equivalent of $2 million dollars.

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 in the volatile region are common.

The DRC has observed a de-facto moratorium on capital punishment since 2003, according to the UN, but courts continue to hand down death sentences.

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