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Congo court sentences three separatist militants to death

[JURIST] A court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [JURIST news archive] Thurday sentenced three members of the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) [group website, in French; GlobalSecurity backgrounder] separatist movement to death after finding them guilty of assassination and murder in a mass trial. A defense lawyer said the convictions were politically motivated and vowed to appeal the decision. A researcher for Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] also expressed doubt at the legitimacy of the convictions due to the heavy reliance on confessions and rumors of torture. BDK was banned last month after a series of violent clashes with police [BBC backgrounder]. On Thursday, another 15 BDK members were sentenced to jail terms of up to 20 years for attempting to overthrow the government. Reuters has more.

Congolese courts have been under increased scrutiny in recent days. On Thursday, both UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile; JURIST news archive] and UN Special Envoy Alan Doss condemned [UN News Centre Report] the death sentences that a Congolese military court imposed on three other men for the June 2007 murder of reporter Serge Maheshe, saying that witnesses and defense lawyers were subjected to intense intimidation. BBC News has more.

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