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Failed ‘coup plotters’ are tried in DR Congo


The trial of 51 people, including three Americans, accused of trying to overthrow the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo last month has begun.

The hearing will be broadcast live on national television and radio from the N’dolo military prison in the capital Kinshasa.

The defendants were led into the military court wearing blue and yellow shirts, marking their first public appearance since the failed coup.

They were arrested during attacks on the presidential palace and the home of an ally of President Félix Tshisekedi and face multiple charges, including financing terrorism, murder and attempted murder.

They have not yet been asked to plead in the case, which is being held under a marquee on the prison grounds.

The US State Department says it has been denied access to its citizens in custody.

The attempted coup on May 19 left six people dead, including the plot’s suspected leader, Christian Malanga.

The remaining defendants were arrested after the attack on the Palais de la Nation and the home of Vital Kamerhe, speaker of parliament.

According to local media reports, the attackers were members of the New Zaire movement, which was linked to Malanga, a former exiled politician from DR Congo who had acquired US citizenship.

His son Marcel Malanga is among the US citizens arrested.

Another is 21-year-old Tyler Thompson, whose family told the BBC this week they had “no idea” how he became entangled in the scheme.

Video footage taken after the incident in Kinshasa shows Thompson being hit with the butt of a gun and repeatedly hit in the head by Congolese security forces.

According to army spokesman General Sylvain Ekenge, other persons of different nationalities were also involved and are facing charges.

One of them is a Congolese man with Belgian nationality and there is also a Canadian citizen originally from DR Congo.

According to the AFP news agency, an investigation is also underway into the behavior of the soldiers who thwarted the coup because they allegedly committed executions after the operation.

President Tshisekedi was re-elected for a second term in controversial elections last December. He won about 78% of the vote.

Nearly twenty people were killed in election violence in the run-up to the elections.

DR Congo is a country with vast mineral resources and a huge population, yet life has not improved for most people, while conflict, corruption and poor governance persist.

Much of the country’s natural resources lie in the east, where violence continues to rage despite Mr Tshisekedi’s attempts to deal with the situation by imposing martial law, -the firing and deployment of regional troops.

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(Getty Images/BBC)

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