Former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba has been found guilty by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of bribing witnesses to subvert course of justice.
Earlier this year, Bemba was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and was subsequently jailed for 18 years.
However, Bemba was on Wednesday convicted after been found guilty of corruptly influencing witnesses and falsifying evidence in that trial. Also, four of his close aides were also found guilty.
It was gathered that his conviction was the first of such corruption trial in the history of the ICC in The Hague.
It was learnt that after exhausting all witnesses, the court heard that Bemba masterminded a witness corruption network from inside his prison cell during his original trial, using secret phones and coded language to bribe, coach and manipulate 14 key witnesses who came to give evidence.
Delivering the verdict, Judge Bertram Schmitt said the case was “about clear, and downright criminal behaviour of the five accused… that resulted in serious offences against the administration of justice”.
“No legal system in the world can accept the bribing of witnesses, the inducement of witnesses to lie or the coaching of witnesses. Today’s judgement sends a clear message that the court is not willing to allow its proceedings to be hampered or destroyed,” he said.
Also found guilty were Bemba’s lawyer Aime Kilolo; his legal case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda; Congolese politician Fidele Babala and Narcisse Arido, who had been a witness for the defence.
Bemba was convicted in March of crimes committed in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002-2003. He was accused of failing to stop his rebel forces from killing and raping people.