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Latest update : 2008-05-27

Supporters of Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is being held for war crimes, took to the streets near the Democratic Republic of Congo's parliament to demand Bemba's release. 'Congo needs Bemba,' the MLC general secretary told reporters.

Around a thousand activists marched on the Democratic Republic of Congo's parliament Tuesday demanding that the state work to secure the release of war crimes detainee Jean-Pierre Bemba.
Followers of Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) left their party headquarters with a heavy police escort before meeting with the speakers of both upper and lower houses of parliament asking them to intervene.
The leader of the main opposition party was arrested in a Brussels suburb on Saturday under an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant, and faces charges relating to a military campaign in the Central African Republic (CAR).
"Congo needs Bemba," Francois Muamba, MLC general secretary told reporters. "He is the leader of an important party. If the ICC decrees that explanations are required... it only needs to issue an invitation. He will attend."
Bemba is blamed for a series of rapes and tortures said by victims to have been committed by his men between 2002 and 2003, when his forces fought against a CAR coup attempt at the behest of then CAR president Ange-Felix Patasse.
Another demonstration in Bemba's native northwestern Equateur province of this vast central African nation, at Gemena, saw hundreds of supporters accuse the "invisible hand of power in Kinshasa" of influencing his detention.
The MLC has called for a major rally in the capital on Saturday in support of Bemba, the defeated 2006 presidential candidate. He has been ordered by a Belgian magistrate to remain in custody pending extradition proceedings to the ICC in The Hague.

Date created : 2008-05-27