THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Latest on case of former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba (all times local):
International Criminal Court judges have ordered the interim release of former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba, days after he was acquitted on appeal of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Bemba was acquitted last week and his 18-year sentence was overturned, but he remained in custody because he is awaiting sentencing in another case in which he was convicted of interfering with witnesses.
Noting that Bemba already has served more than 80 percent of the maximum five-year sentence he faces in the witness tampering case, judges ruled Tuesday that it was "disproportionate to further detain Mr. Bemba merely to ensure his appearance for sentencing."
A lawyer for former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba has urged International Criminal Court judges to release him immediately following his acquittal last week on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes and the overturning of his 18-year sentence.
Tuesday's hearing focused on another case in which Bemba was convicted of interfering with witnesses during his trial. He remains jailed pending a decision on his sentence in that case, in which he faces a maximum of five years and a hefty fine.
Lawyer Melinda Taylor told judges that Bemba has already served nine-tenths of the maximum sentence possible in this conviction and should be freed to rejoin his wife and children in Belgium while he awaits a final ruling on the sentence.
Judges will issue a decision by Wednesday.