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ICC releases Congo militia leader

13 November 2015, 18:59

The Hague - The International Criminal Court Friday cut a 12-year prison term imposed on a Congolese militia leader for a brutal attack on a village, saying he would be freed in January after he had voiced regret for his actions.

A panel of three judges from the war crimes tribunal in The Hague had reviewed Germain Katanga's sentence "and decided to reduce it" to eight years and four months.

The panel cited Katanga's willingness to work with the court on its investigations and that he had sought to distance himself from such crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The judges also found he had "repeatedly and publically taken responsibility for the crimes for which he was convicted, as well as expressed regret for the harm caused to the victims by his action."

"Accordingly, the date for the completion of his sentence is set to 18 January 2016," the ICC said.

A spokesman for the court told AFP the judges' decision cannot be appealed, and the prosecution said it would not oppose his early release.

Katanga was sentenced to 12 years in prison last year.

He was accused of supplying weapons in an ethnic attack on a northeastern Congolese village in 2003 which left 200 people dead.

Arrested in the Congo in 2005 and then transferred to The Hague in 2007, he was only the second person to be sentenced by the tribunal since it began work in 2002 to try the worst war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Last month, the man once subbed "Simba" the lion because of his ferocity, exercised his right to appeal to the tribunal to grant him early release after spending two-thirds of his sentence in jail.

Under ICC rules, time served in custody before sentencing is taken into account.

Katanga, 37, also offered his apologies to the victims, insisting he had turned his back on the militias which still wreak havoc in the DR Congo.

The "immense pain" of his victims was something which "profoundly affected me," Katanga said, voicing "the sincerity of my regrets and the sadness that I feel."

"I have heard their cries of pain and suffering with a feeling of regret and respect," Katanga told the judges, adding he had too had lost his father and brother.

"I sincerely hope that my message will eventually reach them."

In May 2014, The Hague-based court found him guilty of complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes over the February 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro, including murder and pillage.

A former member of the armed fighters of the Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri (FRPI), Katanga said he now wanted to live with his six children in his country and be a farmer.

He added he was also prepared to work with the UN special mission in the country and the government to rein in "residual groups of militias".

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