Trial begins for dozens accused of attempted coup in Congo

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(LONDON and BRUSSELS) — Dozens of Congolese and foreign nationals — including 3 Americans — were brought to trial on Friday in the Democratic Republic of Congo over a failed attempted “coup” against the government of President Felix Tshisekedi last month.

Fifty-three people are accused of participating in the uprising, which occurred in the early hours of May 19; dozens of armed men in military fatigues attacked the home of economy minister and the presidency — also known as the Palais the Nation — with gunfire ringing out across the capital, Kinshasa.

DRC Army spokesperson Brigadier General Sylvain Ekenge said the attempt had been “nipped in the bud” by defense and security forces. As he spoke on State-TV a day after the attempt, he added that the situation was “under control.”

The Congolese army said six people were killed, including alleged coup leader and exiled politician, Christian Malanga. A former military officer, Malanga formerly lived in the U.S., where he established the New Zaire Government in Exile. He was 41 when he was killed in May.

Among the accused in court Friday were three U.S. citizens: Taylor Thompson, Benjamin Zalman Polun and Marcel Malanga, the 21-year-old son of alleged coup leader Christian Malanga. Each is charged with terrorism, illegal possession of firearms, assassination and murder attempt, terrorist financing and criminal activity. The mother of Marcel Malanga said that her son had nothing to do with any political activities.

“I am shocked by the events of this morning and very concerned by reports of American citizens allegedly involved,” U.S. Ambassador to the DRC Lucy Tamlyn said, writing on X. “Please be assured that we will cooperate with the DRC authorities to the fullest extent as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any U.S. citizen involved in criminal acts.”

The accused appeared on Friday morning before a military court in Kinshasa in a public hearing. A presidential source told ABC News that the accused if convicted would face sentences up to and including the death penalty.

Speaking to ABC News in May, the family of Tyler Thompson of Utah described the “terror” of seeing him detained and beaten by Congolese soldiers, saying they were left in “complete and utter shock.” Thompson — who grew up in West Jordan, Utah — had travelled to South Africa last month with close friend, Marcel Malanga.

Another U.S. national says he was mistakenly accused of being involved in the attempted coup. Cole Patrick Ducey, an engineer living in Eswatini, told ABC News that he was not involved, despite reports online and in the media.

DRC government officials also confirmed to ABC News that Ducey was not involved in the coup attempt over the weekend.

The U.S. Embassy in Congo said on Monday Congolese authorities are yet to provide access to Americans arrested.

“We have requested DRC authorities grant consular access to any U.S. citizens who may have been detained and have not received it to date,” U.S. embassy spokesperson Greg Porter said in an email reported by The Associated Press.

ABC News has reached out to the embassy for comment.

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