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DR Congo Soldiers Sentenced to Death for Fleeing Fighting

The soldiers were found guilty of theft, fleeing the enemy, and violating orders, among other charges

A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo has sentenced 25 soldiers to death for fleeing fighting against the notorious M23 rebels in the conflict-hit east of the country.

The soldiers initially numbering 27 were detained on Tuesday along with four of their civilian wives who had allegedly received goods stolen from shops in a nearby village. An army spokesman told the Reuters News Agency the soldiers had abandoned their positions in the villages of Keseghe and Matembe in the province and taken to stealing goods from shops in the nearby village of Alimbongo.

The next day when they were brought before the Butembo garrison military court, they were found guilty of theft, fleeing the enemy, and violating orders, among other charges.

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One soldier was handed a 10-year prison sentence for robbery, while the four wives and another soldier were acquitted. All but one of the 25 denied the charges. Their lawyer says he will appeal the verdict.

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The army has been fighting the Rwanda-backed M23 insurgency in the region for more than two years, as well as facing violence from other militia, although the government in Kigali denies involvement.

In March, the Congo lifted a moratorium on the death penalty, citing treachery and espionage in recurring armed conflicts as the reason.

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Two months later, eight officers were sentenced to death for cowardice and other crimes, exposing damaging disarray in Congo’s armed forces which has been hobbling the fight against M23, army officers told Reuters.

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