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Push for Bemba's 'immediate release'

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Lawyers representing Democratic Republic of Congo politician Jean-Pierre Bemba will today ask judges at the International Criminal Court ( ICC) for his immediate release, news agency AFP reports.

An appeals court last week overturned his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity, saying he had been "erroneously" convicted.

Bemba had been found guilty in 2016 of crimes his troops committed in neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) from 2002 to 2003.

His forces, sent to quell a coup in CAR, committed acts of extreme violence against civilians - crimes which the original judges said Bemba was made aware of but did nothing to stop.

The decision to overturn his 18-year sentence was greeted with cheers from his supporters in the gallery.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda described the ruling as "regrettable and troubling". Amnesty International said it was a "huge blow" for the victims of a "horrifying campaign of rape and sexual violence".

The former Democratic Republic Congo vice-president is currently waiting for another sentence in a separate case after he lost an appeal against it.

He had been sentenced for one year in jail and fined $350,000 ( ÂŁ262,000) for bribing witnesses during his main war crimes trial.

The ICC is yet to determine a new jail term which carries a maximum of five years.
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