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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 December 2006, 15:29 GMT
Congo activists fined for forgery
By John James
BBC News, Pointe-Noire

Christian Mounzéo and Brice Mackosso (Photo: John James)
The men say their conviction was intended to intimidate them
Two leading anti-corruption campaigners in Congo-Brazzaville have been found guilty of forgery and breach of trust.

Both say the trial is an attempt to intimidate them.

Christian Mounzéo and Brice Mackosso were given 12-month suspended prison sentences and fines of $600 each by the court in the second city, Pointe-Noire.

The few hundred people packed into the small courtroom to hear the short judgment being read out expressed shock and surprise at the verdict.

Friends said they were astonished the men could have been found guilty of breach of trust and forgery when the international organisations who had given the money in question had vouched in court for the men's innocence.

Christian Mounzéo said afterwards the verdict had been expected.

"We know that the government has used justice as an instrument to prosecute human rights defenders so we are not surprised about this judgement," he told the BBC.

Verdict criticised

The public prosecutor had earlier asked the judge not to send the men to jail because he said the arrests had already damaged Congo's reputation.

Both men have always denied the charges which relate to a donation of around $4,000 and a computer.

Their arrest in April was condemned by human rights groups and the World Bank.

The men say they will appeal this morning's decision, which they say is designed to stop them acting as independent experts on two new anti-corruption committees.

Congo is sub-Saharan Africa's sixth largest oil producer but has been told by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that it must be more open about its use of oil revenues if it wants to qualify for debt relief.




SEE ALSO
Close encounter with Congo's president
28 Jan 06 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Republic of Congo
22 Aug 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Republic of Congo
11 Jul 06 |  Country profiles



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