(JED/IFEX) – Kinshasa, 20 April 2010 – A military court in Béni, North Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), handed down its ruling on 17 April in the case of murdered journalist Patient Chebeya Bankome. The two prime suspects in the murder, 2nd Lt. Songa Safari and Sgt. Paluku Selemani Ngwesese, were both given death sentences, while a third suspect, Capt. Bisimwa, was sentenced to five years in prison for "disobeying orders".
JED is supporting the defence's call for an appeal in the case and reiterates its demand for a full investigation into the incident that will shed light on the many murky details that remain to be clarified.
One local journalist, who asked not to be identified, told JED, "People in Béni are not satisfied by this verdict; they believe the court has just sentenced two innocent men. On two separate occasions, court officials met at the mayor's house for unexplained reasons. We believe this ruling was influenced by local authorities, and that is enough reason to cast a shadow of doubt on this whole case."
Lawyers for the defence are appealing the case on the grounds that the court did not take into account information and evidence collected at the crime scene the night of the murder.
According to another source who attended the hearings, Chebeya's wife, who remains the primary witness to her husband's murder, told the court that the appearances of the three accused did not match those of the men she saw the night of the murder. The source also told JED that the prosecution's witnesses were "merely soldiers who were part of the team that had arrested the three accused."
Freelance cameraman and journalist Patient Chebeya Bankome was gunned down outside his home in Béni at around 10:30 p.m. on 5 April by three men in military uniform. He had just returned from his recording studio when he was surrounded by his three assailants - who had apparently been waiting for him - just as his wife opened the door. His attackers took his bag, containing a number of videos, his cell phone and an unspecified amount of money before leading him into the court yard and shooting him at point blank range.