Kinshasa - A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo on
Tuesday sentenced 12 rights activists to 20 years in prison each for planning a
march to protest high water and electricity bills and mismanagement of their
The western Bandundu city regional court convicted them of
rebellion and conspiracy.
African human rights group Asadho issued a statement shortly
after the ruling was announced, saying it was "in violation of all
national and international guarantees of a fair trial".
It also said the activists had asked for more time to
prepare for the trial, but that "the judges categorically refused",
convicting them without hearing their defence arguments.
The defendants last month organised a rally to protest the
Bandundu province leadership as well as price hikes for water and electricity,
but were arrested a day before they could hold it.
According to several rights groups, including ASADHO, the
arrests were executed on the orders of province governor Jean Kamisendu Kutuka.
ACAJ, another Congolese rights group, also said the
activists had been "severely tortured" by police while in custody.
Kutuka assumed the governor post about a year ago, after the
provincial assembly had passed a no confidence vote against his predecessor.