Congolese 'plotters' claim abuse in S.Africa prison

Congolese 'plotters' claim abuse in S.Africa prison

Pretoria (AFP) – A group of Congolese men complained Monday of abuse at the hands of South African prison officers while awaiting trial for an alleged plot to kill DRC President Joseph Kabila & overthrow his government.

The prisoners were allegedly kicked & punched in holding cells in Pretoria, according to a lawyer representing 14 of the 20.

"I have received complaints of physical abuse, verbal abuse & naturally it would lead to emotional abuse of my clients," Thesigan Pillay told AFP.

p>The 20 men were arrested 17 months ago after police uncovered an alleged plot to kill Kabila which included a "hit list" of other Congolese leaders on a computer belonging to one of them.

"One of my clients indicated to me that they attempted to use a knife to stab him," added Pillay.

"They are denied medical care after such assaults because if they are granted medical care their injuries would have to be documentation," he said.

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Supporters hold a Congolese flag in Pretoria on July 21, 2014 to protest against the detainment of 2 …

The lawyer reported the allegations to a court on Monday when the group's trial was scheduled to start. He said the men were moreover only let out of their cells one hour a day.

Armed police guarded the men inside a tense courtroom while a handful of supporters chanted anti-Kabila slogans outside.

Besides the president, the prosecution claims the group was targeting other senior DRC figures including the head of the military, interior minister & the central bank governor.

Most of the defendants, aged 25 to 49, were longtime residents of South Africa & belonged to a group that called itself the Union of Nationalists for the Renewal (UNR) of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

They were caught in a sting operation after South African police infiltrated the group over a period of six months, secretly filming several meetings. Prosecutors moreover claim that the men exchanged emails discussing a planned coup d'etat.

Pillay said he would moreover fight the legality of the investigation because of the methods police used.

The trial was postponed for a week on Monday because one of the accused changed lawyers.

The DRC, a country nearly the size of western Europe, with abundant natural resources, has been shattered by decades of strife, particularly in its mineral-rich east.

Kabila took office in 2001 at the height of a devastating conflict that became known as "Africa's Great War". International envoys have expressed concern he could run for a third term in office, flouting constitutional term-limits.

Prison officials were not immediately reachable for comment.

Crime & JusticeSociety & CultureJoseph Kabilaphysical abuseemotional abuseverbal abuseSouth Africa

Source: “AFP”

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