Radio Okapi
June 13, 2007, in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Maheshe, an editor and reporter for U.N.-sponsored Radio Okapi in the eastern border town of Bukavu, was gunned down as he was preparing to board a U.N vehicle with two friends, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. The gunmen ordered the men to sit on the ground and then shot the journalist several times in the chest and legs.

Maheshe's companions were uninjured.

Radio Okapi reporters at the Bukavu station, 950 miles (1,500 kilometers) east of the capital, Kinshasa, had been frequently threatened for their coverage of clashes between rebel groups, local militia, and government security forces in the region, said Leonard Mulamba, deputy editor-in-chief of the network. In 2004, Maheshe was one of four journalists who received threats after rebel forces led by Laurent Nkunda invaded Bukavu.

Maheshe, 31, married and the father of two, had worked at the station since 2003 and was widely respected. Radio Okapi is a nationwide network of stations set up by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo and the Switzerland-based Hirondelle Foundation. William L. Swing, the U.N.'s special representative in DRC, condemned the murder and expressed his outrage at the crime.

Authorities arrested suspects and brought them to trial, but court proceedings were widely criticized as flawed and biased.

An initial trial in August 2007 resulted in the convictions of four men, including Maheshe's two companions. The trial was marred by allegations of irregularities, including charges of inadequate forensic investigation and the prosecution's sudden abandonment of theories implicating two soldiers as the shooters. An appeal led to a retrial.

In a retrial that concluded in May 2008, a military tribunal convicted three defendants – Freddy Bisimwa, Mastakila Rwezangabo, and Patient Bisimwa Sikitu – and sentenced them to death. The trial failed to establish a motive for the crime, according to news reports and local journalists.

The tribunal overturned the convictions of Maheshe's companions, Alain Mulimbi and Serge Muhima, according to news reports. The companions were originally convicted on conspiracy charges based on statements from the accused gunmen. In a September 2007 letter from prison, the accused gunmen retracted their accusations and said they leveled the claims at the behest of two military judges.

The retrial was criticized by the U.N. mission in DRC for "many and serious violations of the basic rights to a fair trial," such as the presumption of innocence and the proper handling of evidence, according to CPJ research. There were reports of death threats against journalists, observers, and lawyers at the retrial, according to local and international media.

Job:Broadcast Reporter, Editor
Beats Covered:War
Local or Foreign:Local
Type of Death:Murder
Suspected Source of Fire:Unknown Fire
Taken Captive:No


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