The Hague, August 22, 2011 (FH) - Jean-Pierre Bemba's trial is slated to resume on Tuesday before the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the hearing of the 26th witness of the Prosecution.

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Jean-Pierre Bemba, the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), a political party in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is charged with crimes against humanity and crimes of war mainly for his command responsibility in murders and rapes committed by his troops in the neighbouring Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003.

He was arrested in Belgium on May 24, 2008.His trial opened on November 22, 2010.

A Congolese senator, he was reelected in July President of the MLC and chosen as the party's candidate for the upcoming presidential election in DRC, on November 28.

According to the Registrar, Bemba's trial is expected to last until December 2012.

Asked by journalists how Bemba could run the country if he were to be elected President, his lawyer Aimé Kilolo referred to "six Kenyan's cases" who, according to him, set a precedent. "Some of the accused are members of the Kenyan government and they are still holding their positions while being indicted by the ICC", he said.

According to Congolese media, Bemba's candidacy is a "means to exact a price for his support of other candidates". He has already met in his Dutch jail with many Congolese politicians including three presidential candidates, Etienne Tshisekedi, Vital Kamerhe et Léon Kengo wa Dondo.

A source close to the case told Hirondelle News agency that, at the end of June, the Defence had requested Bemba's provisional release for him to "fly to Kinshasa by his own means, using his own plane, accompanied by guards". Last Friday, the Appeals Chamber was supposed to deliberate on this issue behind closed doors. The outcome has not yet been disclosed.

Bemba is not the first accused to campaign while held by an international tribunal. Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and Vojislav Seselj did both run for President while in prison.

Bemba has been detained in Scheveningen's prison since July 3, 2008. After losing Congo's Presidential election in 2006, he went into exile in Portugal, before being arrested in Belgium.


© Hirondelle News Agency