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Court sentences militia leader to 15 years imprisonment

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BUNIA, 28 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - A county court in the Democratic Republic of Congo's northeastern town of Bunia in Ituri District sentenced a local militia leader to 15 years imprisonment on Thursday for forgery and extorting money from the public.

The Bunia County Court also ordered the militiaman, John Tinanzabo, to pay a fine of 100,000 Congolese francs (US $200).

Court officials, with the support of the UN Mission in the country known as MONUC, arrested Tinanzabo in April.

"We managed to arrested him because he had stolen the car of Tshitshibanzi Baguma, the former public prosecutor of the Bunia County Court," Judge Ruffin Ekabela said when he read the sentence.

Tinanzabo is the secretary-general of the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC), a former armed group led by Thomas Lubanga. The UPC is now a political party.

Tinanzabo's lawyer said he would challenge the sentence at the Kisangani Appeals Court.

Ekabela said Tinanzabo's sentence was part of the fight against impunity in Ituri, in particular, and across the country in general.

Since the killing of some MONUC peacekeepers in February, several other militia leaders have been arrested and brought to trial. Armed groups have been accused of violating human rights in the district on a massive scale.

At least 50,000 people have died in Ituri and several hundred thousand others have been displaced during six years of war in the district.


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