By MIKE CORDER
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A rebel militia leader known as “The Terminator” denied involvement in atrocities in Congo as his three-year trial at the International Criminal Court ended Thursday and judges began considering their verdicts.
“I am a revolutionary but I am not a criminal,” Bosco Ntaganda told the three-judge panel.
Ntaganda faces a maximum life sentence if he is convicted. He faces 18 charges including murder, rape, pillage and the use of child soldiers in 2002-2003 during an ethnic conflict in the mineral-rich Ituri region of northeastern Congo.
Prosecutors urged judges to convict him on all charges, while Ntaganda’s attorneys challenged the reliability of many prosecution witnesses and said judges should acquit him.
Judges are expected to take months to reach verdicts.
Ntaganda was first indicted in 2006. For years he was a symbol of impunity in Africa, once serving as a general in Congo’s army before turning himself in in 2013 as his power base crumbled.
During his trial in The Hague he testified for weeks in his own defense, saying he wanted to put the record straight about his reputation as a ruthless military leader.
“I hope that you now know me better and you now realize that ‘The Terminator’ described by the prosecutor is not me,” he said.
Prosecutors called dozens of witnesses, including insiders from within the ranks of Ntaganda’s forces, to support allegations that he was responsible, both in person and as a military commander of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo rebels, for crimes committed in attacks on villages in Ituri.
On Tuesday the prosecution’s senior trial lawyer, Nicole Samson, told judges that “the overwhelming weight of credible evidence in this case leaves no reasonable doubt that Bosco Ntaganda is guilty of counts one through 18 with which he is charged.”