The jail time for Vital Kamerhe, the former chief of staff to Democratic Republic of Congo President Félix Tshisekedi, who was convicted for corruption has been reduced from 20 to 13 years in an appeal, his lawyer said Wednesday.
“The sentence was reduced to 13 years in prison,” Jean-Marie Kabengela told AFP when asked about the verdict by the Kinshasa-Gombe appeal court, without further comment.
The 62-year old former president of the National Assembly, had been sentenced to 20 years with “forced labor”.
Kamerhe was convicted for “embezzling public funds” to the tune of some $48.831 million” along with his main co-accused, a Lebanese entrepreneur, Jammal Samih, 79 at the time.
He is accused of embezzling funds allocated for the construction of 1,500 social housing units as part of the so-called “100 days” program announced by President Felix Tshisekedi after his inauguration in January 2019.
Originally from Bukavu in eastern DRC, Kamerhe was Felix Tshisekedi’s main ally in his victory in the December 2018 presidential election.
Then a candidate, Kamerhe withdrew to support the candidacy of President Tshisekedi. The two men reached a political agreement that Kamerhe would be a candidate in the next election in 2023.
Kamerhe maintains his innocence and his lawyers denounce “expeditious justice. His supporters call it a “political trial” to prevent him from running for president in 2023.
A pro-Kamerhe demonstration was dispersed Tuesday night in Kinshasa, witnesses said.
His appeal trial, which began in August, had seen numerous postponement of hearings.
The sentence of Kamerhe’s co-accused, Jammal Samih, was reduced from 20 to six years, according to Kabengela. The sentence of a third co-accused was reduced from two to one year.