[JURIST] Former Congolese vice president Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba [IJM profile] pleaded not guilty [ICC case materials] on Tuesday to charges of interfering with the administration of justice. Bemba is accused of paying witnesses and coaching them to give false testimony in his war crimes trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and fines. The prosecution made its opening statement [press release] Tuesday, and the defense team will make its opening statement on Wednesday.
ICC judges ordered [JURIST report] Bemba and four members [ICC case materials] of his legal team to stand trial on charges of interfering with the administration of justice last November. The accused were held [JURIST report] in an ICC detention center since November 2013. The court ordered the release [JURIST report] of the four members of Bemba's legal team in October 2014. The ICC indicted [JURIST report] Bemba for war crimes and crimes against humanity, which were allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) between October 2002 and March 2003. Prosecutors claim he is responsible for rape, torture, outrages upon personal dignity and pillaging. Bemba's arrest warrant was the first issued by the ICC in its investigation of large-scale sexual offenses in the CAR.