A high court in Democratic Republic of Congo has sentenced presidential candidate Jean-Marc Kabund to seven years in prison on 12 charges including spreading false rumours and insulting the head of state, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Kabund was a former vice president of parliament and a close associate of President Felix Tshisekedi who launched his own political party last year after the two fell out.
He has been held in Kinshasa’s main prison since his arrest in August 2022, after he called Tshisekedi a “danger” and lambasted his government in a speech.
“The court sentenced him to four months each for the first nine offences and 16 months each for the last three,” Kabund’s lawyer Kadi Diko told Reuters, adding that 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,” the lawyer added.
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 told the court in August.
Congo is expected to hold a general election on Dec. 20 in which Tshisekedi is likely to seek a second term. Political tensions have been rising ahead of the vote.
An opposition spokesman was shot dead in the capital Kinshasa in July, while opposition parties have held violent demonstrations denouncing irregularities in voter registration.
Kabund was sentenced by the Court of Cassation, one of Congo’s highest courts, which does not allow appeals.
He had announced his intention to run for president as head of his “Alliance for Change” party in the upcoming vote.
“The presidency is in no way concerned by court decisions,” said Tina Salama, spokesperson for Tshisekedi. “It is neither a plaintiff nor a civil party in this case and therefore cannot comment on it.”