A Republic of Congo court convicted former deputy intelligence chief Colonel Marcel Ntsourou to life in prison with forced labour on Thursday for his involvement in a gunbattle that exposed political rifts in the oil-producing nation last year.
At least 22 people were killed during heavy fighting in Brazzaville last December between state security forces and gunmen loyal to Ntsourou, a former ally-turned-critic of President Denis Sassou Nguesso.
Another 59 people were jailed for between five and 15 years after being convicted on charges of rebellion, murder and illegally stocking weapons.
The court acquitted 54 others, including Ntsourou’s wife.
Ntsourou was earlier convicted for his role in a 2012 accident at an arms depot that killed nearly 300 people and led to sharp criticism of Sassou Nguesso’s administration.
Ntsourou – who was convicted of involuntary responsibility for the blast, given a five-year suspended sentence and released – said he was being used as a scapegoat and has become a fierce critic of Sassou Nguesso, who has led Congo for most of the last 35 years.