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Former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, goes on trial. He is accused of letting his troops rape and kill civilians in the Central African Republic.
Former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, went on trial at the International Criminal Court.
Bemba is accused of leading troops into the Central African Republic between late 2002 and early 2003 in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to suppress coup attempts.
He was arrested in 2008 in Belgium and transferred to the ICC.
The chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says Bemba sent about 1500 troops into the Central African Republic.
He says that the troops committed hundreds of rapes and robbed properties, spreading terror and devastating communities.
[Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor]:
"Small platoons were organized, groups of three or four soldiers invaded houses one by one. They stole all the possessions that could be carried off and raped the women, girls and elderly, regardless of their age. The evidence will show that the charged crimes were committed by MLC troops and that Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba was their military commander with effective authority and control. He is the owner of the militia, he created it to gain political and economic power. He financed it and deployed it."
Bemba is charged with two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes. Bemba pleaded not guilty to all five charges.
Many in Congo believe Bemba would be a strong presidential contender at the 2011-2012 elections. Bemba supporters had assembled inside the ICC on Monday.
Bemba is still popular in the west of the country, where he scored well in the 2006 presidential election against President Joseph Kabila.