Journalist spends year in detention without trial

A journalist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has spent one year in preventive detention at Kinshasa's Penitentiary and Re-education Centre, national media rights NGO Journaliste en danger (JED) reported on Friday.

JED recalled that on 14 February 2003 National Intelligence Agency officers arrested Bamporiki Chamira, a journalist with the daily La Tempete des Tropiques, in the capital, Kinshasa. Chamira was accused of plotting to kill President Joseph Kabila, trying to overthrow the government and seeking to avenge the death of Commander Anselme Massasu. After spending 40 days imprisoned in the agency’s cells, Chamira was brought before the State Security Court (Cour de Surete de l'Etat) on 25 March 2003 and was subsequently transferred to the penitentiary.

His trial started on 17 June 2003 at the court, where he was formally charged with "direct or indirect participation in a plot aimed at eliminating President Joseph Kabila and direct or indirect participation in Commander Doris Mbenge's escape" from custody.

The court recessed at the conclusion of the 24 June 2003 hearing. By December, the court had still not delivered a verdict in the case, in violation of the law stipulating that a verdict must be issued within eight days of the conclusion of court proceedings, according to JED. In January 2004, the court decided to examine the defence lawyer's accusation that Chamira should have been released at the time of the 15 April 2003 general amnesty. Three new hearings in the case have since taken place.

Citing numerous irregularities in Chamira's detention, JED said the journalist was "being deprived of his freedom unfairly, in violation of Article 15 of the country's transition Constitution".

JED repeated its request that Chamira be granted a presidential pardon, if only on humanitarian grounds. A delegation of executives from Kinshasa's main newspapers and JED first made the appeal on 5 May 2003, through then Justice Minister Ngele Masudi, on the occasion of celebrations marking World Press Freedom Day. In the course of his long detention, the journalist's wife died and his young children have since been living under very difficult circumstances, JED said.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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