July 15, 2010 / 5:24 PM / 9 years ago

Court orders release of former Congo warlord Lubanga

Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga (R) enters court at the beginning of his trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague January 26, 2009. REUTERS/ICC/Handout/Files

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court ordered the release of accused Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga on Thursday after his trial in the Hague was put on hold.

Lubanga had pleaded not guilty to charges of recruiting child soldiers.

The court last week ordered an immediate halt to the trial, saying the Office of the Prosecutor had refused to turn over information to his defence.

“An accused cannot be held in preventative custody on a speculative basis, namely that at some stage in the future the proceedings may be resurrected,” the Court said in a statement.

Disclosure of material by the prosecution has been an issue in the Lubanga case for years, with disputes over evidence holding up the trial’s start.

The court said on Thursday the release order will not be implemented immediately as an appeal can be filed within a five-day limit.

Lubanga is accused of enlisting and conscripting children under 15 to his Union of Congolese Patroits to kill members of a rival tribe in a 1998-2003 war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has pleaded not guilty and described himself as a politician, not a warlord.

The ICC is also trying other accused Congolese warlords for crimes committed during the fighting in the resource-rich country.

Lubanga’s trial resumed in January, six months after prosecutors ended their case. His defence has argued the child soldiers who testified against him made up their stories. (Reporting by Harro ten Wolde)

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