- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

BANGUI, Central African Republic (Agence France-Presse) Thirty defendants were sentenced this week for participating in a failed coup last year, but former Defense Minister Jean-Jacques Demafouth was acquitted because there was insufficient evidence to link him to the May 2001 revolt.

"In the light of the ambiguous military situation at the time, [Mr. Demafouth] under orders from the army chief of staff, took control of coordinating all maneuvers and actions undertaken under the direction of the military leaders, with a view to recapturing zones occupied by the insurgents and re-establishing order," said Judge Zacharie N'douba, presiding in Bangui's criminal court.

The court issued sentences Monday ranging from one year in prison to 10 years' hard labor to 30 defendants, mostly members of the armed forces, for "conspiracy and desertion in time of war."

Mr. Demafouth, once a close associate of President Ange-Felix Patasse, was arrested in August 2001.

Forty-eight other defendants also were acquitted for lack of evidence. They included three foreigners an Italian priest, a Lebanese businessman and a soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Father Antonio Falaguasta, head of a Roman Catholic radio station in the Central African Republic, had been accused of sending false information to the Vatican press agency at the time of the coup attempt.

Lebanese businessman Georges Abi Khalil was married to the sister of former President Andre Kolingba. Mr. Khalil was charged with illegally possessing a gun and several hand grenades, which were seized during a police raid on his home.

Josue Bokomboko, a former Congolese army captain, was charged with being an accessory to undermining state security.

The trial of about 700 defendants accused of plotting to oust Mr. Patasse began Aug. 22. More than 600 of the accused were tried in absentia, having fled the Central African Republic after the abortive coup, which was followed by nearly two weeks of fighting and an exodus of tens of thousands of civilians from Bangui, the capital.

Among those tried in absentia was Gen. Kolingba, who was accused of masterminding the failed coup.

He was pronounced "guilty of undermining state security" by the Bangui criminal court in August and sentenced to death, along with 21 other coup plotters, including three of his sons.

An impoverished landlocked country, the Central African Republic has been plagued by coups and frequent changes of government, nearly all of them military, since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide