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Democratic Republic of Congo6 July 2006

Prosecutor finally frees journalist after waiting six weeks to comply with release order

Kazadi Mukendi of the Lubilanji Expansion weekly newspaper was finally released from Kinshasa penitentiary by the Kinshasa-Gombe district court prosecutor this afternoon, after being held since 20 April. Until today, the authorities had not complied with the release ordered issued by a judge on 24 May.

Kazadi Kwambi Kasumpata, who writes under the pseudonym of Kazadi Mukendi, is to be retried by the same court on the libel charge that put him in prison, according to the Reporters Without Borders partner organisation in Kinshasa, Journalist in Danger (JED).

28.06.2006 - Journalist still in prison more than a month after court orders his release

Reporters Without Borders today said it was perplexed by the legal shenanigans that have kept newspaper reporter Kazadi Mukendi in the Kinshasa penitentiary for more than a month and called on the Kinshasa-Gombe prosecutor to explain why he refused to execute a court order (see faxed copy) for his provisional release.

“All of the proceedings applied in this case have been riddled with irregularities,” the press freedom organisation said. “This insistence on keeping Mukendi in prison in violation of the legal rules shows how exposed the Congolese judicial system is to outside pressure. The Gombe prosecutor and court must give an explanation for Mukendi’s summary trial and continuing detention.”

Mukendi, who writes under the pseudonym of Kazadi Kwambi Kasumpata, was arrested on 20 April in response to a libel suit brought by the Congo Protestant University (UPC) over an article in his weekly, the Lubilanji Expansion, on 7 March about alleged mismanagement and embezzlement at the university.

He was transferred to the Kinshasa penitentiary two days later and an initial request for provisional release was rejected on 2 May. His lawyers appealed against this refusal and intermediate court judge Nganda Fumabo ordered his provisional release on 24 May “for humanitarian reasons and on the following conditions: that he not leave the city of Kinshasa until the completion of the judicial investigation, that he cause no breach of the peace and that he pay bail of 10,000 Congolese francs (19 euros).”

In the meantime, a lower court tried and convicted Mukendi in the absence of his lawyers and on 14 June sentenced him to four months in prison and a fine of 3,970 euros. His lawyers were not even notified of the sentence. The Congolese press freedom organisation, Journalist in Danger (JED), learned about it at the last moment and JED’s lawyers filed an appeal against the conviction on 24 June - only just within the 10-day deadline for doing so.

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