Ex-Congo Republic officer convicted on coup plot

AP News
Posted: Sep 11, 2014 12:27 PM

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (AP) — A court in Republic of Congo convicted the former deputy chief of the intelligence services of plotting a coup on Thursday and sentenced him to hard labor for life.

Col. Marcel Ntsourou, once considered an ally of the president, was convicted on charges including possessing war-grade weapons, committing assassinations, and plotting a coup for a shootout between men loyal to him and police last year.

Ntsourou's fall from grace began in 2012 after a mysterious fire at an arms depot. The fire set off a massive explosion of war-grade weapons, flattening a one-square-mile area of the capital and killing more than 100 people. He was convicted as an accomplice in the explosion — which was suspected of being the beginning of a coup attempt — but given a suspended sentence.

The government, however, sought to have that sentence converted into prison time.

When police came to search Ntsourou's house late last year, his men opened fire. He was taken into custody after heavy fighting with the police that left dozens dead. At the trial that concluded Thursday, he was accused of possessing war-grade weapons, committing assassinations, and plotting a coup.

A lawyer for his defense dismissed the verdict as unfair, saying the court ignored the argument that Ntsourou was acting in his own defense.