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Failed ‘coup plotters’ go on trial in DR Congo

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

The hearing is being broadcast live on national TV and radio from N’dolo military prison in the capital, Kinshasa.

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

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

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

The US State Department says it has not been given access to its citizens in custody.

Six people were killed during the attempted coup on 19 May, including the suspected leader of the plot Christian Malanga.

The rest of the defendants were detained after the attack on the Palais de la Nation and the home of Vital Kamerhe, who is the parliamentary speaker.

Local media reports said the assailants were members of the New Zaire Movement linked to Malanga, a formerly exiled DR Congo politician who had acquired US citizenship.

His son Marcel Malanga is among the US nationals who were arrested.

Another is 21-year-old Tyler Thompson, whose family told the BBC this week they had “zero idea” how he had become entangled in the plan.

Videos taken in Kinshasa after the incident show Mr Thompson being hit with the butt of a rifle and repeatedly struck in the head by Congolese security forces.

Other individuals of different nationalities were also involved and are on trial, according to army spokesman General Sylvain Ekenge.

One is a Congolese man who holds Belgian nationality and there is also a Canadian citizen originally from DR Congo.

According to the AFP news agency, there is also an investigation into the conduct of the soldiers who foiled the coup for allegedly committing executions after the operation.

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

Nearly 20 people were killed in election-related violence in the run-up to the vote.

DR Congo is a country with vast mineral wealth and a huge population, but despite this, life has not improved for most people, with conflict, corruption and poor governance persisting.

Much of the country’s natural resources lie in the east where violence still rages despite Mr Tshisekedi’s attempts to deal with the situation by imposing a state of siege, ceasefire deals and bringing in regional troops.

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