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A French judge has charged Congolese General Norbert Dabira with crimes against humanity in connection with the disappearance of hundreds of young men in 1999 when at the end of Congo Brazzaville's civil war. After being and released on parole, Dabira told RFI that the charges "give me the chance to defend myself".
"I have been charged, that does not mean I'm guilty or that I have committed a crime," Dabira said on Thursday. "It gives me the the chance to defend myself and it givesme the chance to be free from this point on."
He was confident that he would be found not guilty, he said.
"As I am innocent, I am sure this matter will soon be behind me."
A court in the French city of Meaux, where Dabira had a house, issued an international arrest warrant against him in 2004 based on cases for torture, forced disappearance and crimes against humanity brought by relations of the alleged victims in 2001.
The general is accused of being among officials and military personnel responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of 350 men, whom they reportedly suspected of being members of the Ninjas rebel militia, led by Bernad Kolélas.
The men were among refugees who had fled to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo during the war but returned in 1999 on Kinshasa-Brazzaville ferry, the Beach, after President Denis Sassou-Nguesso only to be taken off to prison camps.
They were never seen again.
A court case in Brazzaville acquitted 15 defendants, including Dabira, in 2005.
"For us this is a great hope," one of the plaintiffs, Marcel Touange, told RFI after the general was charged. "We want other individuals concerned by this affair to be heard by the french judges."