A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday sentenced 15 anti-government protesters to three years in prison on charges of ‘rebellion’.

The court in Lubumbashi, located in the DRC’s south-east also acquitted thirty-four others who were arrested during protests against President Joseph Kabila’s continued stay in power, AFP reports.

According to  Désiré Kasakula, one of the defense lawyers « These convictions are political because they are meant to satisfy the hierarchy, and we are appealing because, from a legal point of view, there has been no physical evidence of guilt ».

The 49 defendants were arrested about a week ago in the aftermath of two days of violence across the country. They were arrested during the closure of the Matshipisha neighborhood in Lubumbashi, the country’s second largest city behind the capital Kinshasa and the stronghold of exiled opposition leader Moise Katumbi.

On 20 and 21 December, there were clashes between law enforcement officials and youths who denounced President Joseph Kabila’s stay in power beyond his 20 December mandate. A court had earlier this year ruled that Kabila could remain in power until the election of a successor.

Bienvenu Mat / Kinshasa Times