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Trio in military court over journalist's murder

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KINSHASA, 13 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - Three suspects have appeared before a military tribunal in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, facing murder charges over the death of a journalist and his wife eight months ago.

The suspects are two policemen and a soldier. They allegedly murdered Franck Ngyke and his wife on 3 November at their Kinshasa residence.

The trial comes a week after another journalist was killed at his home in Kinshasa, in what observers perceive to be a government crackdown on the media ahead of general elections set for 30 July, the first democratic polls in the country in 45 years.

Ngyke worked for the 'La Reference Plus' daily newspaper as a political analyst, while Mwamba, killed on 8 July, had also written articles critical of the government and the ongoing electoral process.

The six judges conducting the Ngyke murder trial at Matete garrison in Kinshasa did not read out the charges facing the three suspects.

"It was just the opening of the trial, which involves the presentation of the three suspects who have refused to recognise the lawyers assigned to them, saying they had no earlier contact [with them]," said Ndemvu Kabongo, one of the lawyers representing Ngyke's family.

Donnat Mbaya of the non-governmental organisation Journaliste en danger (JED), said: "We welcome the start of this trial but we will not be satisfied with a parody or a masquerade when we are still mourning the killing of another journalist under similar circumstances."

Mbaya said JED had warned before Mwamba's death that the trial against Ngyke's suspected killers should begin. JED alleges Ngyke was killed because of an article on the embezzlement of government funds. JED said Mwamba's killing was also suspect as it occurred after the publication of articles critical of the government.


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