- Bamporiki Chamira, a journalist with the daily 'La Tempête des Tropiques', has now spent one year in a Kinshasa prison without any trial leading to a verdict. Mr Chamira has been accused of plotting to kill President Joseph Kabila and trying to overthrow the regime, but no proof of this has been presented since his arrest one year ago.
On Friday 14 January 2003, journalist Chamira and his late wife were arrested at their Kinshasa residence by National Intelligence Agency (Agence nationale des renseignements, ANR) officers. He has now spent more than 12 months in preventive detention at Kinshasa's Penitentiary and Re-education Centre, former Makala central prison.
The Kinshasa-based media watchdog group Journaliste en danger (JED) today protests against Mr Chamira's continued detention. JED Secretary-General, Tshivis Tshivuadi and President M'Baya Tshimanga say that although Mr Chamira did not commit a press offence and was being tried for a common law crime, JED "still wishes to draw attention to the numerous irregularities that have characterised the case to date, in contempt of the DR Congo's commitments with respect to human rights."
The Congolese journalist was accused of plotting to kill President Joseph Kabila, trying to overthrow the regime in power and seeking to avenge the death of Commander Anselme Massasu. After spending 40 days imprisoned at the National Intelligence Agency, Mr Chamira was brought before the State Security Court on 25 March 2003 and was subsequently transferred to the former Makala central prison.
His trial started on 17 June 2003 at the State Security Court, where he was formally charged with "direct or indirect participation in a plot aimed at eliminating President Joseph Kabila and direct or indirect participation in Commander Doris Mbenge's escape from an ANR cell."
During the pre-trial investigation of the case, the journalist's defence lawyer, Diku Dieudonné, asked the prosecution to list the facts proving that his client had participated in a plot. The lawyer for the prosecution responded that at on the day of Commander Mbenge's escape, Mr Chamira spoke by telephone with his daughter, who is Mr Mbenge's wife.
However, the court recessed at the conclusion of the 24 June 2003 hearing. By December 2003, the court had still not delivered a verdict in the case, in violation of the law stipulating that a verdict must be issued within eight days of the conclusion of court proceedings.
Finally, in January 2004, the court decided to examine the defence lawyer's accusation that Mr Chamira should have been released at the time of the 15 April 2003 general amnesty. Three new hearings in the case have since taken place. Mr Chamira still remains in jail.
JED today condemns the "irregularities" in the case against Mr Chamira. "No proof was ever brought forward to back the charges against the journalist," noted Mr Tshivuadi and Mr Tshimanga of the media watchdog group. "It is clear from all the facts articulated above that Chamira is being deprived of his freedom unfairly," they add.
The group recalled its request that Mr Chamira be granted a presidential pardon, "if only on humanitarian grounds." A delegation of executives from Kinshasa's main newspapers and JED first made the appeal on 5 May 2003, via then Justice Minister Ngele Masudi, on the occasion of celebrations marking World Press Freedom Day.
- In the course of his long detention, the journalist's wife passed away and his young children have since been living in very difficult circumstances, JED added on the current situation of Mr Chamira.
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