Three Americans in alleged coup attempt appear in Congo military court

Court Watch 2024/06/07 15:13   Bookmark and Share
Three Americans accused of being involved in last month’s coup attempt in Congo appeared in a military court in the country’s capital, Kinshasa, on Friday, along with dozens of other defendants who were lined up on plastic chairs before the judge on the first day of the hearing.

The proceedings before the open-air military court were broadcast live on the local television channel.

Six people were killed during the botched coup attempt led by the little-known opposition figure Christian Malanga last month that targeted the presidential palace and a close ally of President Felix Tshisekedi. Malanga was shot and killed soon after live-streaming the attack for resisting arrest, the Congolese army said.

The defendants face a number of charges, many punishable by death, including terrorism, murder and criminal association. The court said there were 53 names on the list, but the names of Malanga and one other person were removed after death certificates were produced.

Alongside Malanga’s 21-year-old son Marcel Malanga — who is a U.S. citizen — two other Americans are on trial for their alleged role in the attack. All three requested an interpreter to translate the proceedings from French to English.

Malanga’s son was the first to be questioned by the judge, who asked him to confirm his name and other personal details. The military official chosen to translate for him was apparently unable to understand English well.

Eventually, a journalist was selected from the media to replace him, but he too had trouble translating numbers and the details of the proceedings.

“He’s not interpreting right. We need a different interpreter who understands English, please,” Marcel Malanga told the judge after the journalist incorrectly translated his zip code.

But no other translator emerged and the defendants had to make do with the journalist, who worked for the national radio. Malanga appeared frustrated and defiant as the interview stumbled ahead.

Tyler Thompson Jr, 21, flew to Africa from Utah with the younger Malanga for what his family believed was a vacation, with all expenses paid by the elder Malanga. The young men had played high school football together in Salt Lake City suburbs. Other teammates accused Marcel of offering up to $100,000 to join him on a “security job” in Congo.

Thompson appeared before the court with a shaved head and sores on his skin, looking nervous and lost as he confirmed his name and other personal details to the judge.

His stepmother, Miranda Thompson, told The Associated Press that the family found out about the hearing too late to arrange travel to Congo but hoped to be present for future court dates. Before this week, the family had no proof he was still alive.

“We’re thrilled with the confirmation,” she said.

Miranda Thompson had worried that her stepson might not even know that his family knew he’d been arrested. On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Congo told the AP it had yet to gain access to the American prisoners to provide consular services before the trial.
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