11 October 2023 :
A Congolese military court sentenced a lawmaker to death on October 10, 2023 for treason and involvement with the M23 rebel movement, a verdict his lawyer denounced as based on "ethnic hatred."
The death penalty is often handed down in the Democratic Republic of Congo but has not been applied for 20 years and is systematically commuted to life imprisonment.
The public prosecutor had in August requested life imprisonment for Edouard Mwangachuchu, 70, who represents the Masisi constituency in the National Assembly and also owns a mining company.
Mwangachuchu, who was not present at the sentencing, was found guilty of "illegal possession of weapons and munitions of war," as well as "treason" and "participation in the M23 insurrectionary movement," said presiding judge General Robert Kalala.
The Tutsi-led M23 militia has captured swathes of territory in Congo's North Kivu province since reemerging from dormancy in 2021.
Independent U.N. experts, the Kinshasa government and several Western nations including the United States and France accuse Rwanda of actively backing the M23.
Kigali strongly denies the charge.
Taken in for questioning in early March, Mwangachuchu was first held in Kinshasa's main prison, Makala, before being transferred to the Ndolo military prison where the 30 or so hearings in his trial were held.
His co-defendent Robert Muchamalirwa, a police captain prosecuted for "violation of orders" was acquitted by the court, which then ordered his immediate release.
Mwangachuchu's lawyer said he will appeal the verdict, calling it a trial "based on ethnic hatred and deductions."
Thomas Gamakolo said that it had never been proven that Mwangachuchu had links with Rwanda and was presumed guilty because he belonged to the Tutsi ethnic group.
"It is very difficult today in our country to live or exist as a Tutsi," the lawyer said.