Military appeal court urged to clear two men convicted of masterminding murder of journalist who was their friend

Military appeal court urged to clear two men convicted of masterminding murder of journalist who was their friend

Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger (JED), its
partner organisation in Democratic Republic of Congo, urge the military
judicial authorities in the eastern city of Bukavu to release Serge
Muhima and Alain Mulimbi Shamavu, close friends of slain journalist
Serge Maheshe, as it is clear they were wrongly convicted in August of
instigating his murder.

The two organisations have learned from the United Nations
Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) that a military court
in Bukavu will begin tomorrow to hear the appeals of Muhima and
Shamavu, and those of the two men convicted of carrying out the murder,
Freddy Bisimwa Matabaro and Mugisho Rwezangabo Mastakila, two civilians
with a record of petty crime in Bukavu.

“The military judicial authorities in Bukavu must defend their
honour by freeing Maheshe’s two friends, against whom there are no
other charges,” Reporters Without Borders and JED said. “They must
develop a completely different theory of how Maheshe came to be
murdered if justice is to be properly rendered to his family and
colleagues, and the military judges responsible for last August’s
shocking parody of a trial must be called to account. This miscarriage
of justice has gone on long enough.”

On 28 August, a Bukavu
military court sentenced Matabaro and Mastakila to death for the murder
of Maheshe in June. It also sentenced Maheshe’s two friends, who were
with him at the time, to death for “criminal association.” The court
based its convictions solely on the “confessions” made by Matabaro and
Mastakila and their testimony that Maheshe’s two friends were the
instigators. No motive for the murder and no material evidence was
produced. When issuing its verdict, the court acknowledged that many
aspects of the case were unclear.

Then, in a letter dated 8
September, Matabaro and Mastakila accused two military judges of
bribing them to implicate Muhima and Shamavu. They claimed in the
letter, a copy of which is held by Reporters Without Borders and JED,
that the two judges promised that they would be quickly released and
would receive a regular income if they testified that they shot Maheshe
at the behest of his two friends. They said the judges gave them
information to support this story as well as the murder weapon and the
SIM card from Maheshe’s mobile phone. They added that they now wanted
to clear Muhima and Shamavu so that they could be released.

worked for UN-backed Radio Okapi as news editor of its Bukavu office.
He was gunned down on a Bukavu street on the evening of 13 June as he
was about to get into the marked UN vehicle he was using.