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DR Congo's Bemba to face ICC sentencing for bribery

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International judges will sentence former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba next month for bribing witnesses during his war crimes trial, the Hague-based tribunal said on Wednesday.

“Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court scheduled a hearing on 17 September to deliver its decision (on the) re-sentencing (of) Mr Jean-Pierre Bemba,” and two others, the ICC said in a statement.

In June, a starkly divided five-judge bench overturned Bemba’s 2016 conviction and 18-year jail term for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his troops in the neighbouring Central African Republic in 2003 and acquitted him.

However, Bemba and five co-accused in a separate case were convicted on appeal in March of bribery, corruption and of coaching 14 defence witnesses in his main trial.

Appeals judges however ruled that the original sentences imposed for corruption of between two-and-half years and six months were too low and they sent the case back to the lower court for re-sentencing.

Prosecutors called for a maximum five years to be imposed on Bemba, his lawyer Aime Kilolo and his legal case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda.

After Bemba’s June 8 acquittal in the main war crimes case, he was provisionally freed by the ICC pending his sentencing in the corruption case.

Bemba has since returned to the DR Congo but has been banned from running in the central African country’s upcoming presidential elections because of the ICC’s bribery conviction.

The former warlord and powerful businessman said he would take a legal route to contest the country’s elections by appealing to the DR Congo’s top court.

It remains unclear whether Bemba will return to The Hague for the sentencing.

The maximum sentence the court can impose is five years but Bemba has already spent a decade behind bars during his trial and thus is unlikely to serve any more time.

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