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Congolese woman sentenced to death for murdering young girl

Congolese woman sentenced to death for murdering young girl
File photo from Tuesday, April 16, 2019, a child suspected of having the Ebola ...   -  
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Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.

Democratic Republic Of Congo

A Congolese woman has been sentenced to death for the murder of a girl whose mutilated body was found near a river in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, her lawyer said on Sunday.

Ombeni Malekera, a 30-year-old mother of three, was arrested on Thursday after the body of the five-year-old girl was discovered two days earlier in Bukavu, capital of South Kivu province, on August 1.

Three days earlier, the child had attended a birthday party at Ms Malekera's home with other neighborhood children.

She returned there on Tuesday to play with a child of her age, and then disappeared. His body was found about 40 minutes later. Ms. Malekera was suspected "we do not know on what evidence", explained to AFP her lawyer, Me Guy Bauni-Masimango.

Tried from Friday by the Bukavu High Court, she was "sentenced to death" on Saturday evening after two hearings, he said.

"We are frustrated by this court decision taken in the absence of any proof of our client's guilt. We appealed immediately," added Bauni-Masimango.

The lawyer considered that "there was no serious investigation into this case" and that no one had seen her commit this murder nor had been able to specify "when, where, under what circumstances" he was perpetrated. He also wondered why justice had authorized the burial of the girl's body when "the medical report (autopsy) was not yet available".

Prosecuted for "criminal association" in this case, her husband, Christian Mufariji, was "acquitted, for lack of evidence", explained Mr. Bauni-Masimango.

The civil party is for its part "satisfied" with this judgment "which was able to relieve the family of the child, at the end of a trial of an educational nature for the community", reacted to AFP Me David Bugamba Amani, lawyer for the child's family.

Although pronounced in the DRC, the death penalty is no longer applied there, it is systematically commuted to life imprisonment, he recalled.

In South Kivu, as in the whole of eastern DRC, which is plagued by violence, children but also adults are kidnapped, sometimes for ransom, by armed men and militias. Cases of mutilation of children are also sometimes reported.

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