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Cablegate: Controversial Spiritual Leader Sentenced In

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PP RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR
DE RUEHKI #0987/01 1741417
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231417Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4182
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000987

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM CG
SUBJECT: CONTROVERSIAL SPIRITUAL LEADER SENTENCED IN
ASSASSINATION PLOT


1. (SBU) Summary: Kuthino Fernando, the spiritual leader of
the Church of the Army of Victory, was sentenced June 16 to
twenty years in prison on charges of masterminding a failed
December 2002 assassination attempt on a fellow pastor.
Kuthino was arrested at his church in Kinshasa where police
reportedly seized a hidden weapons cache that was allegedly
to be used in a possible coup attempt. Two MLC military
figures were also arrested with Kuthino. The hasty trial and
sentencing of Kuthino on earlier charges unrelated to his
alleged current plans against the state appear to remove this
controversial figure from center stage for the moment, while
simultaneously intensifying tensions before the July 30
elections. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- --
Sentence: 20 Years in total, 10 without Parole
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) "Archbishop" Kuthino Fernando of the Church of the
Army of Victory was sentenced on June 16 to twenty years in
prison (of which ten are without parole), bringing an end to
the sensational story of the arrest and trial of this
controversial leader. The self-proclaimed "Archbishop" of
the Army of Victory Church and leader of the "S.O.S. Sauvons
le Congo" (Let's Save the Congo) movement had recently
returned to the DRC after several years in exile in France.
Despite calls by the prosecution for the death penalty,
Kutino was sentenced to twenty years on charges of attempted
assassination, as well as to another twenty for illegally
stockpiling arms. (Note: Due to the civil law concept known
as "concours d'infractions," there is no application of
cumulative charges in the DRC, meaning that Kuthino can only
serve the one sentence that carries the highest penalty. End
Note.) Kuthino's defense team said it will appeal the ruling.


--------------------------------------------- -
A Sordid Tale or Just More Political Intrigue?
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (U) Since Kuthino's arrest May 14, newspapers in Kinshasa
have prominently reported on the often confusing story
surrounding the arrest and detainment of Kuthino. Upon his
arrest, Kuthino was accused of having an arms cache in his
church allegedly for use in an intended coup d'etat. Reports
of the size and content of the arms cache vary; most
newspapers claim that there were several grenades, three Uzi
machine guns and several rifles. Ensuing revelations that
two Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) security
personnel were among the Kuthino cohorts arrested added to
the speculation surrounding the case. In the immediate
aftermath of these reports and innuendoes, some Kinshasa
newspapers were rife with unproven rumors of arms being
stockpiled for a supposed coup d'etat, -- in at least one
version to be led by Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba.

4. (U) As Kuthino remained in detention and the case against
him moved forward, the actual charges being levied against
him became less clear. Eventually, the prosecution charged
Kuthino with being the mastermind behind an assassination
attempt against Pastor Ngalasi of the rival "Louange" church
in December 2002. Meanwhile, the more recent charges of
planning a coup disappeared. Reports from the trial
indicated that Kuthino was accused of organizing a group of
men in 2002, and depositing a USD 1,400 installment of a
eventual USD 20,000 payment to assassinate Ngalasi into a
bank account. While details are unclear, the prosecution
claimed a member of the assassination team dropped a bag at
the scene that contained a photo of one of their members.
Prosecutors said police used this evidence to capture the
team member and obtain the details of the assassination
attempt, ultimately leading them to Kuthino.

5. (SBU) Behind the various accusations lies an even more
complex story. "Archbishop" Kuthino has long been a popular
spiritual leader in the DRC who has not been afraid to speak
out against what he felt were abuses of power by the Kabila
government. Kuthino also brings a disturbing edge to his
proselytizing. On several occasions he has called for the
expulsion of all foreigners from the Congo. From his
self-imposed exile in France, he founded the "S.O.S. Sauvons
le Congo" movement and spoke out against what he deemed was
the one-sided role and interference of the international
community in Congolese affairs. His movement called for an
end to ethnic strife in the country as well as the corruption

KINSHASA 00000987 002 OF 002


and misuse of power it deemed inherent in the current
government.

6. (SBU) Further complicating the story are allegations of
Kuthino's checkered past. Various witnesses at the trial
testified to Kuthino's widespread philandering as well as to
tales of exotic travels filled with excess. Kuthino was
portrayed as a repeat offender in front of the court as
witnesses claimed that he had been arrested on three previous
occasions for possession of weapons.

-------
Comment
-------

7. (SBU) This arrest and subsequent trial seem to represent
the clash between a "pastor" with delusions of grandeur and
odd political alliances, (for example, with Bemba and Paris
exilee Mobutu-era official Honore Ngabanda) and a nervous
government cracking down on potential spoilers before
critical national elections. Also notable is the way in
which the trial was handled; the whole process moved from
arrest, to collection of evidence, to clear-cut verdict (in
less than clear circumstances) in a month's time -- this in a
country wherein the typical criminal case can take years to
get to trial, let alone reach a verdict. As elections
approach, we can expect the Kinshasa rumor mill to go into
overdrive, producing ever more numerous and bizarre
conspiracies. End Comment.
MEECE

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