Soldiers in DR Congo condemned to death for 'fleeing the enemy'

Twenty-five soldiers with the Democratic Republic of Congo's army have been sentenced to death on charges of "fleeing the enemy" during battles with notorious Tutsi-led M23 rebels.

A total of 31 defendants, including 27 soldiers and four of their civilian wives, appeared before the Butembo garrison military court in North Kivu province, near the front line, on Wednesday.

Twenty-five soldiers, including two captains, were charged with "fleeing the enemy, dissipating munitions of war and violating orders".

They were also convicted of theft since they stole goods from shops in a nearby village after abandoning their posts, accoding to an army spokesperson.

The other accused, including four of the soldiers' wives believed to have received looted goods, were acquitted for lack of evidence.

In March, the government lifted a moratorium on the death penalty, in place since 2003, arguing the need to remove "traitors" from the army. Prior to that, death sentences were systematically commuted to life imprisonment.

A lawyer for the soldiers has said he will appeal the sentence.

Discourage fugitives

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