The International Criminal Court (ICC) handed Jean-Pierre Bemba a $350,000 (300,000 euros) fine and a 12-month sentence over witness tampering in a previous hearing on war crimes.

In this file photo taken on September 12, 2018 leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's political party Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) Jean-Pierre Bemba attends a joint press conference with RDC's opposition leaders in Brussels.
In this file photo taken on September 12, 2018 leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's political party Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) Jean-Pierre Bemba attends a joint press conference with RDC's opposition leaders in Brussels. (AFP Archive)

The International Criminal Court on Monday sentenced Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba to a $350,000 fine (300,000 euro) and a 12-month sentence for witness tampering, but his sentence was reduced to zero due to time already served.

Bemba was acquitted of war crimes on appeal in June but had already been convicted on the lesser charge of witness tampering during his trial.

'A cautionary example'

Bemba has been barred from standing in December's presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo because of the conviction.

"Future accused persons can look at Mr Bemba's conviction as a cautionary example as to what consequences obstructing the administration of justice can have," said Judge Bertram Schmitt.

"Mr. Bemba's acquittal in the main case should have been the end of his exposure to the court, yet he continues to have the spectre of this institution hanging over him."

Bemba's surprise acquittal on war crimes charges in June raised the prospect he could return to Congo and re-enter politics. 

A final decision on whether the witness tampering conviction makes him ineligible to stand is expected on Wednesday.

Bemba headed the Movement for the Liberation of Congo party and its affiliated militia. 

After he lost an election to Laurent Kabila in 2006 he was sent to The Hague to stand trial for atrocities committed by his troops in neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

His initial conviction was reversed on appeal in June, with judges saying prosecutors had failed to show he had enough control over troops to bear responsibility for their wrongdoing and he could not be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, the witness tampering conviction remains.

Bemba, who has family in both Belgium and Congo, did not attend Monday's ruling.

Source: Reuters