A DR Congo court on Monday acquitted a dozen people accused of killing the country’s controversial former military intelligence chief, a defence lawyer said.
Delphin Kahimbi, who was also former deputy head of the armed forces, was a right-hand man to Joseph Kabila, who ruled the Democratic Republic of Congo with an iron-fist for 18 years until 2019.
Kahimbi died on February 28, 2020 in circumstances that remain unclear.
“The judges today acquitted all the individuals who were prosecuted for the murder of General Delphin Kahimbi,” said Mulumba Tshivuadi, an attorney for Kahimbi’s widow Brenda Nkoy, who was one of the accused.
He said prosecutors had been “unable to provide the slightest piece of evidence” to implicate his client.
“Justice has been done. It’s a relief — long live the state of law,” he said.
Prosecutors in the trial, which began on May 3 in the Makala prison in the capital Kinshasa, had demanded the death penalty against Nkoy and 20 years for the other defendants, who included Kahimbi’s mother-in-law, he said.
On the day of Kahimbi’s death, Nkoy told AFP he had died at home of a heart attack. Eight days later, Kabila’s successor, President Felix Tshisekedi, said he had died by hanging after being stripped of office.
Kahimbi was one of a dozen officials to be slapped with EU sanctions for rights violations during the final years of the Kabila regime.
In the run-up to his death, local sources said, he had been barred from foreign travel, stripped of his functions and questioned by the national security council.
A military source said that he had been suspected of setting up a system to wiretap officials.
A diplomatic source said he was also accused of spying on Tshisekedi.
“After today’s acquittal of defendants in the trial of the suspected murderers of General Delphin Kahimbi, the question remains, was it murder or suicide?” Carine Dikiefu of Human Rights Watch said on Twitter.
“We call on military justice to pursue inquiries in order to uncover the general’s real murderers,” said another campaigner, Emmanuel Cole. AFP