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Rights Groups Condemn Death Penalty in Murdered Journalist Case in DRC


Reporters Without Borders has condemned the sentencing to death of three people for the killing of journalist Serge Maheshe in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The media watchdog blames what it calls poor investigations into the murder by the police and a less than credible trial by a military tribunal. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from London.

Serge Maheshe, a 31-year-old journalist with U.N.-backed Radio Okapi was shot to death in an apparent robbery last June in Bukavu.

Since then, Reporters Without Borders' Leonard Vincent says, the police ignored evidence that could have revealed the motive for his death.

"First of all the clues were not collected just after the murder and we have a feeling that everything was done to distort the investigation and to lead it in a certain way," said Vincent. "That led to a very disastrous trial."

Vincent says while there is evidence that two of the condemned men may have been involved in the fatal shooting of Maheshe, there is some evidence from the case that may suggest that they did not act alone.

Reporters Without Borders also charges that defense lawyers and independent observers received anonymous threats.

Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also expressed concern over irregularities in the trial, saying that the military court had refused to explore other credible leads in the case and to ask for ballistic expertise on the weapon used for the crime. She also said there had been repeated threats against the defendants, the defense lawyers and independent observers of the trial.

Reporters Without Borders' Vincent describes Radio Okapi as an independent broadcaster. He says Maheshe was a highly respected and professional journalist who was operating in a very dangerous environment.

"Bukavu is a very insecure city where militias, the army former rebels, all this is mixed up and you don't know who is who and who is defending whose interests," said Vincent.

Vincent says journalists regularly face threats in the DRC, and Maheshe was the fourth journalist to be killed in DR Congo since 2005.

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