A court in Congo-Brazzaville has sentenced a former government minister to ten years in prison on charges of violating state security and being complicit in the illegal possession of weapons.
According to the indictment, Jean-Martin Mbemba currently lives in France and wanted to “organise a popular insurrection in 2013”. He was sentenced on Friday in absentia.
The former ally of long-serving President Denis Sassou Nguesso had held numerous positions in the Republic of the Congo government between 1997 and 2012, including justice minister.
“There were never any weapons in this case. Nothing was found,” said Mbemba’s lawyer, Alphonse Dianguitoukoulou, adding his client went to France for health reasons.
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Two other co-defendants were also sentenced in absentia to ten years by the court in the capital.
Four others appeared before the judge, including a police officer, and were given sentences of five years and two months.
They were detained in 2013 so have already served the bulk of their sentences.
“They have one or two months left before they are freed,” said president of the court Christian Oba, adding that the defendants had three days to appeal.
Sassou Nguesso, a former Marxist soldier, has ruled the smaller western neighbour of the vast Democratic Republic of Congo since 1979, apart from a five-year period in the 1990s.