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Journalist Bapuwa Mwamba's killers sentenced to death by military court

(JED/IFEX) - On 24 August 2007, the Kinshasa/Matete Military Court pronounced its verdict in the murder trial of journalist Louis Bapuwa Mwamba's killers, sentencing three of the defendants to death.

Vungu Mbembo, Nkunku Makwala and Mangwele Lowayi were found guilty of "criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, illegal possession of firearms and war munitions, and non-premeditated murder". Suami Sumbu, the fourth defendant, was sentenced to a 20-year prison term for "illegal possession of firearms and war munitions."

The court rejected the "desertion" charge against Mbembo on the grounds that he was not a fully registered soldier in the country's armed forces. The court also rejected the murder charge for which the first three defendants were prosecuted and instead charged them with non-premeditated murder (assault and injuries causing death without intention to kill), on the grounds that the journalist's death was not premeditated but rather resulted from an accidentally fired gunshot following an altercation provoked by the journalist, who tried to seize a firearm from one of the defendants in the dark.

In addition to a CF150,000 (approx. US$300) fine, the court also ordered the defendants to pay, jointly with the Congolese state, damages in the amount of US$3.5 million to Bapuwa's family.

Bapuwa Mwamba was a correspondent for several Kinshasa newspapers. He was killed on 8 July 2006 by three armed men, who broke into his home through the back door. He was shot in his left leg and bled to death.

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