DR Congo commutes policeman's death sentence for murder of rights activist
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A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday commuted a police officer's death sentence over the 2010 murder of prominent rights activist Floribert Chebeya and his driver.
On appeal, the Supreme Military Court reduced Colonel Daniel Mukalay's sentence to 15 years in prison and acquitted another officer, Captain Michel Mwila, who had been facing a life sentence. The court upheld the acquittal of three other officers.
Chebeya, the renowned founder of the Voice of the Voiceless rights charity, was found dead in his car on the outskirts of Kinshasa on June 2, 2010, a day after he was driven to police headquarters for an appointment with the chief of police.
"This (new verdict) trivialises a state crime," said Richard Bondo, head of the plaintiffs' legal team, vowing to return to court for another review.
A military court in 2011 convicted Mukalay, the deputy chief of police special services, and sentenced him to death while handing Mwila a life term.
Chebeya's chauffeur, Fidele Bazana, also vanished and his body has never been found. During the first trial, the court concluded that Bazana had also been murdered.
The appeal process began in June 2012 but was suspended 11 months later, only to resume in April 2015.
The military court on Thursday maintained its conclusion that a double murder had taken place but cited "extenuating circumstances" – without specifying what these were.
Voice of the Voiceless director Dolly Ibefo has previously said the group was "very sceptical" that the truth about Chebeya's murder would ever come to light, although President Joseph Kabila's regime gave him a national funeral.