Five accused of killing DR Congo Italian envoy request acquittal

Five of the six men charged with murdering Italy's ambassador to DR Congo in 2021 requested acquittal on Saturday, during a hearing in the capital Kinshasa.

Luca Attanasio, Italy's former ambassador to the DRC, was among three people killed on February 22, 2021, when a UN convoy was ambushed in the country's troubled east.

The other fatalities were driver Mustapha Milambo and Italian police officer Vittorio Iacovacci.

A military tribunal examining the murders opened in Kinshasa in October.

After months of hearings, the prosecution wrapped up its case on Wednesday and demanded the death penalty for the six defendants.

Five are being held in prison in Kinshasa with one man still on the run.

On Saturday, the defence delivered its final case, urging the tribunal to dismiss the charges, arguing that evidence for the involvement of the defendants was weak.

Each of the accused told the court that they were innocent when asked to provide a final comment.

The Italian government is participating in the case, as a formally wronged party.

Boniface Balamage, a lawyer representing Italy, said that Rome does not support capital punishment and would rather prison terms.

The tribunal is expected to issue a sentence within ten days.

The DRC has observed a de-facto moratorium on capital punishment since 2003, according to the United Nations, but courts continue to hand down death sentences.

Much of eastern DRC is prey to armed groups, many of which are a legacy of regional wars that flared during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Militia attacks against civilians in the volatile region are common.