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Cablegate: Update: Questionable Evidence and Procedures Mar

VZCZCXRO0050
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0868 2041521
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231521Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6584
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000868

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM KPAO CG
SUBJECT: UPDATE: QUESTIONABLE EVIDENCE AND PROCEDURES MAR
SERGE MAHESHE MURDER TRIAL

REF: KINSHASA 00666

1. (U) Summary. The trial of two soldiers accused of
killing Radio Okapi journalist Serge Maheshe has lost
credibility, say MONUC and NGO representatives in South Kivu
province. Locals complain that the military tribunal hearing
the case rushed to judgment with the arrest and hearings of
14 suspects just days after Maheshe was killed. The alleged
murderers have accused two of Maheshe's best friends as
masterminds behind the crime. End summary.

2. (U) Serge Maheshe, a journalist who worked for UN-funded
Radio Okapi, was killed by unidentified men in Bukavu, South
Kivu June 13 (reftel). Two days later, a military tribunal
began hearings for 14 suspects, although, according to MONUC,
routine investigations were not yet completed. The tribunal
recessed June 16.

3. (U) When hearings resumed June 25, the prosecutor named
two of the 14 detainees, Freddy Bisimwa and Masaile
Rwezangabo, as the gunmen, and said they had threatened
investigators on the scene after the murder. The prosecutor
also presented a crime scene report that noted the murder
occurred at approximately 8:00 p.m., but the crime scene was
not sealed off until past midnight. Police did not search
homes until the following morning.

4. (U) On July 5, the two principle witnesses in the case,
Serge Muhima and Alain Mulimbi, friends who were with Maheshe
when he was killed, were arrested and taken to Bukavu central
prison for questioning. On July 15, Bisimwa and Rwezangabo
claimed Muhima and Mulimbi had ordered the killing. They
said Maheshe's friends had promised them 30,000 USD and plane
tickets to South Africa in return for killing him.

5. (SBU) A Bukavu NGO leader and friend of Maheshe told us
July 19 the trial had become a "theater." He evoked the 2005
military investigation into the death of Bukavu-based human
rights activist Pascal Kabungulu, which similarly accused a
friend of his murder. The friend was eventually released,
but the accusation delayed the prosecution of the case, which
remains unsolved.

6. (SBU) A MONUC Bukavu political officer told us July 19
the accusations against Muhima and Mulimbi were "ridiculous"
and said its head of office was personally following the
case. He characterized the "confusing tale" of Bisimwa and
Rwezangabo as an attempt to deflect attention from themselves.

7. (U) Maheshe's mother testified July 18 that Muhima and
Mulimbi were "like her own sons" and had grown up with
Maheshe. She upbraided the alleged murderers and demanded
they explain who had actually sent them to kill her son and
why. She offered two possible motives for the murder: an
altercation between Maheshe and Republican Guard soldiers in
May and a family land dispute for which Maheshe had appeared
in civil court the day he was killed.

8. (U) Civilian lawyers retained by Muhima and Mulimbi have
petitioned for provisional release of the two as well as for
their case to be moved to a civilian court. The tribunal
denied both requests.

9. (SBU) Comment: National and provincial officials spoke
out strongly against Maheshe's murder. But the conduct and
record of Bukavu's military tribunal does not engender
confidence in its ability to solve cases or defend the public
interest. End comment.
MEECE

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