Kinshasa court puts 50 on trial over alleged coup in DR Congo

A trial began on Friday in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for 50 people accused of attempting a coup d’état on May 19th. Three US citizens and a Belgian national are among the defendants.

The presiding judge, Freddy Ehume, warned the three Americans – Marcel Malanga (21), Taylor Christian Thomson (36), and Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun (age not mentioned) – that their alleged actions could result in the death penalty.

The trial, held at the Kinshasa-Gombe military court under a large tent within the Ndolo military prison grounds, saw all defendants appear in blue and yellow prison uniforms. Western diplomats, journalists, and lawyers observed the proceedings.

The events unfolded on May 19th when armed men, reportedly brandishing the flag of the former Zaire (dictator Mobutu Sese Seko’s regime), attacked the home of Economy Minister Vital Kamerhe and then proceeded to the nearby Palais de la Nation, President Felix Tshisekedi’s office.

The military later confirmed they had thwarted a coup attempt.

Christian Malanga, a Congolese-born American citizen, is suspected of leading the plot.

He was killed by security forces during the attempt. His son, Marcel Malanga, is one of the three Americans facing trial.

The motive behind the alleged coup remains unclear, though the government condemned it as an attempt to destabilize the country’s institutions.

Four women and a Belgian national, Jean-Jacques Wondo, are also among the accused.

Wondo, a military expert with Congolese origins, is charged with being an accomplice who provided transport for the alleged plotters. He denies the charges and will defend himself in court.

A total of 53 defendants, including the deceased Christian Malanga, are being tried. The charges against them include terrorism, illegal weapons possession, attempted assassination, and financing of terrorism.

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