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U.N. court acquits Congo rebel leader of war crimes

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 18, 2012 at 8:51 a.m.

— The International Criminal Court acquitted a Congolese militia leader Tuesday of all charges of commanding fighters who destroyed a village in eastern Congo in 2003, raping and hacking to death some 200 people, including children.

The acquittal of Mathieu Ngudjolo on charges including rape, murder and pillage was only the second verdict in the court’s 10-year history and the first time it had cleared a suspect.

The only other ICC verdict, handed down earlier this year, convicted another Congolese rebel leader, Thomas Lubanga, of using child soldiers in battles in Ituri. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The court has indicted far more senior suspects than Ngudjolo, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo. Al-Bashir refuses to surrender to the court and Gbagbo is in custody in The Hague awaiting a possible trial.

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