Three Americans appear in Congo military court over alleged coup attempt

7 June 2024, 14:44

A gaunt-looking Tyler Thompson in court in Kinshasa
Congo Trial. Picture: PA

Six people died during the botched coup attempt last month.

Three Americans accused of being involved in last month’s attempted coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have appeared in a military court in Kinshasa.

The three men appeared along with dozens of other defendants who were lined up on plastic chairs before the judge on the first day of the hearing.

Six people were killed during the botched coup attempt led by little-known opposition figure Christian Malanga last month, which targeted the presidential palace and a close ally of the President Felix Tshisekedi.

Malanga was shot dead soon after live-streaming the attack for resisting arrest, the Congolese army said.

US defendant Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun in court in Kinshasa
Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun also appeared in court (AP)

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 Christian Malanga and one other person were removed after death certificates were produced.

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

Tyler Thompson Jr, 21, flew to Africa with Marcel for what his family believed was a holiday, with all expenses paid by Malanga.

Dozens of defendants at a military court
Dozens of people appeared in court (AP)

His family said they had played high school football together. Their teammates accused Marcel of offering up to 100,000 dollars to Thompson to join him on a “security job” in Congo.

Thompson was seen in the open-air military court on Friday with a shaved head and sores on his skin.

His family maintains he had no knowledge of the elder Malanga’s intentions and no plans for political activism and did not even plan to enter Congo. They were meant to travel only to South Africa and Eswatini, his stepmother, Miranda Thompson, said.

Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun, 36, is the third American on trial.

Zalman-Polun, who in 2015 pleaded guilty to trafficking marijuana, is reported to have known Christian Malanga through a gold mining company that was set up in Mozambique in 2022, according to an official journal published by Mozambique’s government, and a report by Africa Intelligence newsletter.

By Press Association

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