Americans put on trial over failed African coup attempt

US, UK and Canadian citizens are among those accused of trying to overthrow the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government

Three Americans and three other citizens of Western countries are among the more than 50 suspects who have gone on trial for their alleged roles in a failed effort to overthrow the government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The defendants in the case – including US, UK, Canadian and Belgian citizens – appeared at a military court hearing on Friday in Kinshasha, the DRC capital. They face counts of criminal conspiracy, murder, terrorism and other charges for their alleged roles in last month’s failed coup bid.

The charges were read out to the suspects as their trial began in a tent outside the Ndolo military prison. If convicted, at least some of the alleged coup participants could be sentenced to the death penalty or lengthy prison terms. Judge Freddy Ehume said the actions of the three Americans were “punishable by death.” The open-air court proceedings were shown live on a local television station.

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Americans put on trial over failed African coup attempt
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A group of gunmen in military uniforms briefly occupied an office of DRC President Felix Tshisekedi on May 19 in Kinshasha after storming the home of Vital Kamerhe, the outgoing economy minister and a candidate for speaker of the National Assembly. Six people were reportedly killed during the raids, including two police officers who were assigned to protect Kamerhe.

The alleged coup leader was Christian Malanga, a former DRC politician who obtained US citizenship while living in exile. He was killed by security forces during the attempted government overthrow, according to a DRC military spokesman. His 21-year-old son, Marcel Malanga, is one of the US citizens charged with taking part in the plot.

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The DRC ended its moratorium no capital punishment in March, saying it was needed to rid the army of traitors and respond to a surge in terrorism. Tshisekedi won a second term as president in December, winning 73% of the reported votes in a disputed election.

Earlier this year, Tshisekedi’s government demanded that UN peacekeepers leave the country, saying they had failed to protect civilians from armed rebel groups. The UN mission operated in the DRC for two decades and involved thousands of troops, mostly from Pakistan. DRC security forces are taking over 14 UN bases as they step in to battle the insurgents.

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