Defence lawyers accuse treason trial of fueling discrimination

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Defence lawyers accuse treason trial of fueling discrimination

Lawyers defending Edouard Mwangachuchu, accused of treason have strongly criticized the trial proceedings.

Defence lawyers accuse treason trial of fueling discrimination

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Lawyers defending an MP accused of treason and contact with M23 rebels on Monday called out a “hate” trial linked to discrimination against Tutsis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Taken in for questioning in early March, Edouard Mwangachuchu, who represents the province’s Masisi constituency in the national assembly and owns a mining society, is being tried by a military court in Kinshasa.

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The prosecution on Friday called for the 70-year-old to be jailed for life.

Lawyers criticize treason trial

The defence said Monday that the evidence being used in court against Mwangachuchu “centres around him belonging to the Tutsi ethnic group”.

“We condemn a trial of hatred and stigmatisation based on stereotypes and exclusion, a trial of discrimination,” Thomas Gamakolo, spokesman for a group of defence lawyers, told a press conference.

“The 30 days of hearing for this trial have been fuelled by anti-Tutsi and anti-Rwanda sentiments skilfully sustained by the prosecution.”

According to the defence group, the case against Mwangachuchu started with “people calling themselves ‘Hutu peasants’ from the Nyatura armed group claiming to have discovered an arms cache”, at a mine.

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Mwangachuchu, who has visited Rwanda, “has a Rwandan soul”, Gamakolo said.

“That’s serious. Assimilating an individual with a Rwandan these days, as the prosecution is doing, is to vilify them, if not condemn them to death in the eyes of public opinion,” he said.

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The Tutsi-led M23 militia has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu province since emerging from dormancy in 2021.

Independent UN experts, the Kinshasa government and several Western nations including the United States and France accuse Rwanda of actively backing the M23.

Kigali strongly denies the charge and counters that Kinshasa backs the ethnic Hutu FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) which includes members accused of leading the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

“Our client is being made a sacrificial offering for all the supposed crimes and errors committed by Tutsis,” Gamakolo said.

Numerous Congolese politicians and security officials have in recent months been accused of contact with the M23 enemy.

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Militias and rebel groups have plagued much of eastern DRC for decades, many a legacy of regional wars that flared at the end of the last century.


© Agence France-Presse