The Hague, January 19, 2011 (FH) - The ICC's lower court made public a posteriori, on Wednesday, its decision to allow defendant Jean-Pierre Bemba to attend his stepmother's funeral in Belgium on January 10.

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Bemba stands trial before the ICC for his command responsibility in murders and rapes committed by his militia in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

It was the second time since his detention in The Hague began, in July 2008, that Bemba was allowed to attend a burial in Belgium. He was first allowed to travel to Brussels in July 2009 after his father, Jeannot Bemba, had passed away.

He attended Josette Efika Lola's funeral with his wife and five children, who live in Belgium. Despite the secrecy surrounding his release, some five hundred people had gathered at Waterloo's Saint-Paul Church to catch a glimpse of him, including Congo's Deputy Prime Minister Mobutu Nzanga, a son of the former dictator.

Josette Efika Lola had raised Jean-Pierre Bemba after the death of his mother, at the age of 12.

ICC prosecutors had raised objections to Monday's temporary release invoking concerns Bemba might be able to identify prosecution witnesses, since the names of the protected witnesses are given to the accused and to the defense team.

But the three judges hearing Bemba's case granted their permission on account of "exceptional circumstances", albeit under strict conditions. Bemba, accompanied by court officials, was only allowed to communicate with close family members, and had to pay for all expenses incurred.

He was allowed to stay only for the day. His trial resumed on January 11.


© Hirondelle News Agency