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RSF calls for release of reporter arrested six months ago and "forgotten" in Kinshasa prison

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has called for the release of Bosange Mbaka, a reporter with the Kinshasa-based publication "Mambenga", who was arrested six months ago in a round-up of presumed sympathisers of former presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba. Nicknamed "Che Guevara," Mbaka is from Equateur province, a Bemba stronghold. He was charged with stealing military property for picking up a mobile phone dropped by a soldier.

"It is time to put an end to Mbaka's misfortunes, which highlight the grave shortcomings of the Congolese judicial system and the arbitrary practices of the police," the press freedom organisation said. "It seems he was arrested and held all this time not because of the silly business of the phone but because of his nickname and origin, and because of a corrupt and flawed judicial system."

Mbaka's newspaper sent him to cover a hearing at the Supreme Court in Kinshasa on 21 November 2006, when the court building was set on fire by protesters and clashes broke out between troops and Senator Bemba's supporters, who were disputing his defeat by President Joseph Kabila in the previous month's presidential election run-off.

Mbaka picked up a telephone dropped by a soldier in the course of the fighting, and went to hand it in to a guard post when he was arrested. After being held for a month at the Police General Directorate for Special Services, known as "Kin Mazière," he was transferred to the Kinshasa penitentiary.

Mbaka was interrogated about his work, his presence that day at the Supreme Court and, because he is from Equateur province, about his presumed support for Bemba. Many people from Equateur were rounded up at that time with the aim of neutralising real or imagined pro-Bemba activists.

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