A Congolese army colonel has been arrested in connection with the killing of two United Nations sanctions monitors last year, a prosecutor said on Friday, the first member of the security forces detaines over the case.
The two UN monitors, Swede national Zaida Catalan and American Michael Sharp were killed in March 2017 while investigating reports of atrocities during an armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai region between government forces and the Kamuina Nsapu militia.
Congolese authorities initially pinned the blame on the militia, arrested about two dozen alleged fighters and charged them with involvement in the killings.
Later, the government said it could not exclude the possibility of involvement of state agents.
Reuters reports a prosecutor overseeing the case, Timothee Mukuntu, to say Colonel Jean de Dieu Mambweni had been arrested but no formal charges had been filed yet.
The report says mambweni was arrested after a session in the trial of some of the arrested militia members on Thursday.
Defence lawyers at the hearing in Kananga said prosecutors played an audio of what they said was the colonel meeting the UN monitors at his house two days before their deaths.
In the audio recorded by Catalan, Mambweni was heard giving the monitors the number of a translator for them to use on their mission, and then calling the translator himself, two defence lawyers told Reuters.
Mambweni denied in court testimony last month that he had introduced them to the translator or played any part in the planning of their mission or their deaths.
Defence lawyer Tresor Kabangu also said members of his team had requested that Congo’s interior minister at the time of the killings, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, appear in court to explain negotiations he led with Kamuina Nsapu representatives.
Shadary is now President Joseph Kabila’s preferred candidate to replace him in a Dec. 23 election. A spokesman for Shadary did not respond immediately to a request for comment.