Congolese politician put on trial in his sickbed
Issued on: Modified:
A strange scene took place on February 20 in the Ngaliema clinic in Kinshasa when an entire court of law came to the hospital room of opposition politician Gérard "Gecoco" Mulumba to try him for allegedly "insulting the president.” Photos of the trial were widely shared on social media, where they were both criticised and ridiculed.
Mulumba, a member of parliament from the opposition party UDPS (Union for Democracy and Social Progress or, in French, “Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social”), was sentenced for "insulting the president” three months after he was arrested by the country’s security forces at the Ndjili International Airport in Kinshasa.
According to Mulumba’s lawyer, Léon Ngombwa, this trial was pure “persecution from those in power, who wanted to condemn [Mulumba] in any way possible, even through a trial that isn’t actually a trial.”
Detained in secret after his arrest, Mulumba had to be transferred to a clinic on January 19 due to a severe kidney issue. In early February, Mulumba’s lawyer received a ruling authorising his client to “seek treatment in an appropriate medical facility.” However, the authorities didn’t respect this ruling and, instead, decided to keep Mulumba in the clinic.
In the end, the court came to the clinic and Gérard "Gecoco" Malumba made his court appearance from his sick bed. The photos show him surrounded by magistrates.
Reactions on social media came fast and furious, with many decrying what they saw as the persecution of Mulumba by Congolese authorities.
#RDC un pays Ecceptionel au monde, on Judge même un Malade au Lit de l'hôpital ! Record Mondiale. Ici #GECOCO dans sa chambre entouré des Judges et les avocats . Huuummm incroyable mais vrai. pic.twitter.com/w6hPG0gxCCwakenge (@amury) 20 février 2018
Tweet translated from French: "#DRC is an exceptional country… we even sentence a sick person in his hospital bed! World Record. Here, #GECOCO in his room surrounded by judges and lawyers. Hmmm...Incredible but true."
"It’s illegal to put someone on trial while he’s in his sickbed”
Francis Visso is a lawyer in Kinshasa. He says that the trial was illegal.
"It’s the first time that such a trial has taken place. Usually, trials for criminal cases are held in official courtrooms or other specially adapted rooms. It is illegal to put someone on trial from his sickbed, especially when he is weak.
Mulumba is clearly being persecuted. Even before the sentence, which is supposed to be handed down on February 22, everybody already knows that he will be found guilty. This staged trial is a parody of justice that appears to be politically-motivated.
FRANCE 24 contacted Congolese government spokesperson Lambert Mende and will publish any response he provides to our questions.