US embassy cable - 02KINSHASA876

UPDATE ON LAURENT KABILA ASSASSINATION TRIAL

Identifier: 02KINSHASA876
Wikileaks: View 02KINSHASA876 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kinshasa
Created: 2002-04-12 14:54:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PHUM PINR KJUS CG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 121454Z APR 02
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2389
INFO RWANDA COLLECTIVE
SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000876 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/11/2007 
TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PINR, KJUS, CG 
SUBJECT: UPDATE ON LAURENT KABILA ASSASSINATION TRIAL 
 
REF: KINSHASA 793 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: CLASSIFIED BY POLOFF LAURA ENGELBRECHT, REASONS 1.5 B & D 
 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY: THE LAURENT KABILA ASSASSINATION TRIAL BEFORE 
A MILITARY TRIBUNAL BEGAN APRIL 3 IN A PUBLIC COURTROOM. 
CURRENTLY, THE WITNESSES AND SOME DEFENDANTS (SUCH AS EDDY 
KAPEND, FORMER AIDE-DE-CAMP TO KABILA AND ALLEGED 
COUP-PLOTTER) ARE TESTIFYING ON THEIR ROLES IN THE EVENTS 
IMMEDIATELY SURROUNDING THE ASSASSINATION.  SEVERAL 
CONTRADICTORY VERSIONS HAVE BEEN PUT FORTH, AND THE COURT 
WILL LIKELY CONTINUE TO HEAR TESTIMONY FOR QUITE SOME TIME. 
NOW THAT THE TRIAL HAS STARTED, THERE IS AT LEAST A SEMBLANCE 
OF ORDER AND DUE PROCESS, A WELCOME CHANGE FROM THE LONG 
IMPRISONMENT OF THE ACCUSED WITHOUT CHARGES OR LAWYERS.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
2.  (C) POLOFF ATTENDED TWO SESSIONS OF THE ONGOING TRIAL FOR 
THE 116 DEFENDANTS IN THE LDK ASSASSINATION.  THE TRIAL IS 
BEING HELD AT MAKALA CENTRAL PRISON, AND BY PREVAILING LOCAL 
STANDARDS, IT IS QUITE WELL ORGANIZED AND ACCESSIBLE TO THE 
PUBLIC.  THE COURTROOM INCLUDES A RAISED PLATFORM FOR THE 
MILITARY JUDGES, A TABLE FACING IT FOR WITNESSES AND LAWYERS, 
A SEATING SECTION FOR THE DEFENDANTS (LOOKS LIKE A JURY BOX), 
AND ROWS OF SEATING FOR THE LAWYERS (OVER 100).  THE PUBLIC 
(MAINLY RELATIVES AND FRIENDS OF THE DEFENDANTS) IS SEATED IN 
AN ADJOINING COURTYARD UNDER A SHADE SHELTER.  ALL JUDGES, 
LAWYERS, AND WITNESSES USE MICROPHONES, AND THE TRIAL CAN BE 
CLEARLY HEARD BY ALL.  MANY OF THE OTHER MAKALA PRISONERS 
HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO COME AND WATCH THE TRIAL.  MILITARY AND 
POLICE PRESENCE (INCLUDING ZIMBABWEAN SOLDIERS) IS HEAVY BUT 
NOT MENACING.  THERE IS A RELAXED ATMOSPHERE DURING THE COURT 
RECESSES - EVERYONE (THE LAWYERS, JUDGES, MILITARY, MAKALA 
PRISONERS, AND EVEN THE DEFENDANTS IN THE TRIAL) STAND AROUND 
CHATTING TOGETHER IN THE COURTYARD, WHERE VENDORS HAWK DRINKS 
AND SANDWICHES. 
 
3.  (C) FOLLOWING IS A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE DAILY PROGRESSION 
OF THE TRIAL: 
 
APRIL 3: THE COURT CONSIDERED TECHNICAL QUESTIONS AND 
OBJECTIONS TO PROCEDURE RAISED BY THE DEFENSE LAWYERS. 
 
APRIL 4-5: THE COURT MOVED IMMEDIATELY TO HEARING TESTIMONY 
ABOUT THE EVENTS SURROUNDING THE ASSASSINATION.  SEVERAL 
DEFENDANTS (KAPEND AND THREE MILITARY GUARDS) TESTIFIED, AS 
DID FORMER FINANCE ADVISOR MOTA, WHO WAS WITH THE PRESIDENT 
AT THE TIME OF THE ASSASSINATION.  THEIR VERSIONS OF EVENTS 
DIFFER SIGNIFICANTLY.  KAPEND HAS DENIED THAT HE KILLED THE 
ASSASSIN RASHIDI, SAYING RASHIDI COMMITTED SUICIDE AND KAPEND 
EMPTIED HIS GUN INTO HIM "OUT OF ANGER" AFTER HE WAS ALREADY 
DEAD.  MOTA CLAIMS HE SAW NO HUMAN BEINGS IN THE COMPOUND 
RIGHT AFTER THE SHOOTING, ONLY A COW.  CHIRIBAGULA, ONE OF 
THE GUARDS, CLAIMS MOTA NOT ONLY SAW HIM, BUT SPOKE TO HIM 
("AND I AM NOT A COW").  MOTA, WHO WAS IN COURT MERELY AS A 
WITNESS, HAS NOW BEEN DETAINED FOR THE DURATION OF THE TRIAL 
ON THE GROUNDS OF SELF-CONTRADICTORY TESTIMONY (PROBABLY TO 
PREVENT HIM FROM FLEEING).  (NOTE: MOTA'S COW STORY MAY HAVE 
BEEN AN ATTEMPT TO IMPLY THAT THERE WAS SORCERY INVOLVED, AS 
SOME CONGOLESE BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE CAN TURN THEMSELVES INTO 
ANIMALS THROUGH MAGIC.) 
 
APRIL 8: THE COURT MOVED TEMPORARILY TO THE PALAIS DE MARBRE, 
THE SITE OF THE ASSASSINATION, TO ALLOW THE WITNESSES TO 
REENACT THE EVENTS. 
 
APRIL 9-10: MORE TESTIMONY WAS HEARD.  THE DRIVER OF GEORGES 
MIRINDI (AN ALLEGED CONSPIRATOR IN THE PLOT) TESTIFIED THAT 
ON THE DAY BEFORE THE ASSASSINATION, HE WARNED LAURENT 
KABILA'S DRIVER OF THE PLOT AND TOLD KABILA'S DRIVER TO 
INFORM THE HIERARCHY.  KABILA'S DRIVER TESTIFIED THAT HE 
INFORMED THE SECURITY SERVICES.  THE TWO SECURITY SERVICES 
OFFICERS SAID THEY HAD HAD NO TRANSPORTATION TO GO ARREST 
MIRINDI.  THEIR BOSS TESTIFIED THAT HE HAD NOT BEEN TOLD. 
 
APRIL 11: GAETAN KAKUDJI, LAURENT KABILA'S FORMER MINISTER OF 
INTERIOR AND CLOSE ADVISOR, TESTIFIED ABOUT HIS AND OTHER 
SENIOR ADVISORS' (INCLUDING MWENZE KONGOLO) ACTIONS 
IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE SHOOTING.  HE TALKED ABOUT A MEETING TO 
DISCUSS PLACING JOSEPH KABILA IN THE PRESIDENCY TO KEEP 
THINGS STABLE, AND HE STRESSED THAT THEY WERE TRYING TO CARRY 
OUT LDK'S WISHES.  HE CONTRADICTED AND CORRECTED HIMSELF ON 
OCCASION DURING HIS TESTIMONY, AND HIS ATTEMPTS AT HUMOR 
BORDERED AT TIMES ON IMPUDENCE IN ADDRESSING THE JUDGE. 
 
4.  (C)  EVEN BEFORE THE TRIAL BEGAN, IT HAD SEVERE DUE 
PROCESS PROBLEMS, SUCH AS THE YEAR-LONG JAILING OF DEFENDANTS 
WITHOUT LAWYERS OR CHARGES, THE SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME GIVEN TO 
PREPARE THE DEFENSE, THE TRIAL OF SO MANY DEFENDANTS ON 
WIDELY VARYING CHARGES IN A SINGLE TRIAL, AND THE TRIAL OF 
CIVILIANS IN A MILITARY COURT.  NEVERTHELESS, NOW THAT IT HAS 
BEGUN, THE TRIAL SEEMS TO BE PROCEEDING MORE-OR-LESS SMOOTHLY 
AND OPENLY, WITH BOTH THE PROSECUTION AND DEFENSE HAVING 
ADEQUATE TIME TO CROSS-EXAMINE THE WITNESSES.  MANY ASPECTS 
OF THE PROCEDURE LOOK STRANGE TO U.S. OBSERVORS (SUCH AS 
REQUIRING DEFENDANTS TO TESTIFY, THE ORDER OF WITNESSES, 
ETC...), BUT THIS IS LARGELY DUE TO THE FACT THAT THE DRC 
MILITARY COURT (COM) CODE IS BASED ON THE 1960'S BELGIAN 
PENAL CODE AND IS QUITE DIFFERENT FROM TRIAL FORMAT USED IN 
U.S. CIVILIAN COURTS. 
 
5.  (C) BOTH THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS 
(ICRC) AND THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW GROUP HAVE 
MONITORS IN REGULAR ATTENDANCE AT THE TRIAL.  EACH DAY'S 
PROCEEDINGS ARE ALSO COVERED EXTENSIVELY IN THE LOCAL PRESS 
AND, AS DEVELOPMENTS WARRANT, BY INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISTS. 
 
 
SWAN 

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