Jean-Marc Kabund, a presidential aspirant in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been jailed for allegedly insulting the sitting president, Felix Tshisekedi.
Kabund was a former vice president of parliament and a close ally of President Tshisekedi who launched his own political party last year after the two fell out.
Kabund, however, following a series of allegations, has been held in Kinshasa’s main prison since his arrest in August 2022, after he allegedly called Tshisekedi a “danger” and lambasted his government in a speech.
Court of Cassation, one of Congo’s highest courts, reportedly convicted the politician on 12 charges, including spreading false rumours and insulting the head of state.
Kabund is expected to serve seven years in prison with no appeal.
Kabund had announced his intention to run for president as head of his “Alliance for Change” party in the upcoming general election in the country.
“The presidency is in no way concerned by court decisions,” said Tina Salama, spokesperson for Tshisekedi after the count ruling.
“It is neither a plaintiff nor a civil party in this case and therefore cannot comment on it,” Salama reportedly said.
“The court sentenced him to four months each for the first nine offences and 16 months each for the last three,” Reuters quoted Kabund’s lawyer, Kadi Diko, saying.
He said the most serious offences were “spreading false rumours and contempt for head of state and parliament.
“This is an extremely harsh decision, especially as there is no appeal.”
Kabund was not present for the verdict, but in a hearing last month, defended himself and repeated his remarks.
“I have asked the people to do everything in their power to ensure that Mr Tshisekedi is excluded from the next elections, because I believe that the country is in great danger under his leadership,” he had told the court in the previous month.
Congo is expected to hold a general election on December 20, 2023, in which Tshisekedi is likely to seek a second term. Political tensions have been rising ahead of the vote.
It could be recalled that an opposition spokesman was shot dead in the capital Kinshasa in July, while opposition parties have held violent demonstrations denouncing irregularities in voter registration.