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Rights Groups Condemn Arrest of DRC Opposition Figures

Diomi Ndongala (center, wearing suit) and other opposition activists are seen confronting policemen in Kinshasa in this October 13, 2011, file photo.
Rights groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo have condemned what they call "irregularities" in the arrest of an opposition politician and his aide, accused of plotting to kill DRC President Joseph Kabila.

This is the third alleged coup plot DRC authorities have said they have uncovered this year. This one was made public a few days ago when 13 suspects were presented to the media in Kinshasa.

The suspects were lined up in front of some items that a police spokesman said they had intended to use to attack the presidential motorcade. These included a machete, some empty bottles, three bottles containing a little gasoline, some portable phones and a mattress, but no firearms.

Police said one of the suspects, Verdict Mituntwa, had named his employer, opposition politician Diomi Ndongala, as "the organizer and financier" of the plot.

But media reports from the presentation said Mituntwa and the other suspects denied this and shouted that the whole thing was a set-up.

Georges Kapiamba is a lawyer and president of the Congolese League for Access to Justice. His group, and another, the Association of Young Advocates for an Integral Leadership, have condemned the circumstances of Mituntwa’s arrest.

Kapiamba said his organization was contacted more than three months ago by Mituntwa's relatives, who complained that he had been taken away by unidentified people, thrown in a vehicle and driven to an unknown destination. He said Mituntwa was kept in secret custody for three months, which is a serious breach of Congolese law.

It is inadmissible, he told VOA, that people be arrested, kept in secret custody and then produced two or three months later. The authorities claim the suspects have confessed, he added, but questioned under what circumstances these alleged confessions were obtained?

Mituntwa's employer Diomi Ndongala - the man he is alleged to have implicated in the coup plot - was arrested April 8 on charges of raping a minor. That charge dates back to June 2012 when he had disappeared for three months. Ndongala was found by the side of a road in Kinshasa, injured and in a poor state of health, a few days before the Francophone summit in early October.

He told the media he had been kidnapped and kept in a secret jail. His lawyer told VOA last year that the man who claimed to be the father of the girl Ndongala had allegedly raped was not in fact her father and had recently been convicted for blackmail.