Bemba seeking millions in court damages

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Former Congolese vice president and militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba acquitted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) last year is seeking nearly 70 million euros (57 million pounds) in damages.

Bemba’s lawyers said paperwork was filed requesting compensation for unlawful detention, legal fees and losses due to alleged mismanagement of assets seized by the court.

The assets include seven airplanes, three villas in Portugal, three parcels of land in the Democratic Republic of Congo and two boats, his lawyer Peter Haynes said.

During 10 years in detention, Bemba’s assets “were simply allowed to rot”, Haynes told journalists in The Hague.

The claim totals just under half of the ICC’s annual budget of some 150 million euros. No date was set for the filing to be considered.

Defendants sought damages from the court in the past for unlawful detention, but none were awarded. A court spokesman said the filing in the Bemba case would be considered by judges and had no additional comment.

Bemba, a successful businessman and opposition politician before his arrest, was acquitted May last year of crimes committed by members of a militia under his command.

Bemba’s legal team said in the event the court awarded damages, part would pay reparation for war victims.