By Spy Uganda Correspondent
DR Congo’s top court on Monday tossed out a 13-year jail term handed to a former aide to President Felix Tshisekedi in a high-profile graft case.
Former presidential chief of staff Vital Kamerhe, 63, was sentenced last June for embezzling nearly $50 million of public funds.
But on Monday the Court of Cassation dismissed the sentence issued by the Court of Appeal and ordered the case to be reassessed by a differently-composed court.
Reading out the ruling in a 90-minute public session, Judge Christophe Mukendi said the case had been put prematurely to the Appeal Court and “(Kamerhe’s) right to defend himself was violated.”
A veteran politician with extensive clout, Kamerhe teamed up with Tshisekedi in the runup to the December 2018 presidential election and afterward became his chief of staff.
But he soon became embroiled in a sensational episode that became a test of Tshisekedi’s vow to crack down on graft.
Kamerhe and several others were accused of siphoning off more than $50 million of public funds that had been earmarked for social housing.
After a trial that lasted only a month and was screened on nationwide TV, Kamerhe was sentenced in June 2020 to 20 years.
That term was reduced by the Court of Appeal in June 2021 to 13 years. In December, the same court ordered his release on health grounds.
Kamerhe has previously insisted that he is the victim of a “political trial” to prevent him from running for president in 2023.
He is a former president of the National Assembly and had been an early runner in the 2018 election before deciding to pull out of the race and campaign alongside Tshisekedi.