Journalist Jean-Luc Kinyongo Saleh's trial begins in Kinshasa
(JED/IFEX) - The trial of Jean-Luc Kinyongo Saleh, publisher of the biweekly "Vision", got underway on Friday 20 April 2001 at the Kinshasa/Gombe Tribunal. The journalist was brought to trial by the former state minister of internal affairs, Gaëtan Kakudji.
Kakudji and Kinyongo Saleh were represented before the tribunal by their respective lawyers (three for the former state minister, including his cabinet director Kabula wa Ngoy, and one for the journalist, Jean Kabongo Kalunda).
At the very beginning of the proceedings, Kakudji's lawyers demanded that the journalist be present in the courtroom at the next hearing, scheduled for 4 May. Their request was granted. The journalist's lawyer claimed that the tribunal's order forcing him to appear was illegal. Kabongo pointed out that "Article 71 of the Penal Procedure Code allows the defendant to be represented by his lawyer, who benefits from a special proxy when the penalty is under two years' [imprisonment]."
To recall, on 16 March, the publisher of "Vision" was sentenced in absentia to four months' imprisonment with no chance of parole and fined US$2,500 in damages and interest for having "libelled" Kakudji, who was state minister for internal affairs at the time. "Vision" published an article, signed by Berlin Atu-Atu, in which it was stated that the former state minister "[was] one of those people who have benefited most from the war economy, which allowed him to scandalously become part of the bourgeoisie in a flash." The journalist has been in hiding since well before his trial got underway. On 21 March, his lawyer protested the Kinshasa/Gombe Tribunal's decision in which it cited procedural defects.
JED notes that this trial is getting underway just as Kakudji has been dismissed from the government. His name has been mentioned in the recent report by United Nations experts describing the pillaging of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition, a Kinshasa newspaper recently republished a receipt, signed by the former state minister, for US$2,500,000, which he received in cash on 14 July 1999 from the MIBA diamond company (Minière de Bakwanga). No one has denied the receipt's authenticity.