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Twelve activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo sentenced to 20 years behind bars for organising a demonstration have had their jail terms drastically reduced, a rights group said on Saturday.
"They were sentenced to a maximum of one year. Some were sentenced to six months in jail, others to a year," Jean-Claude Katende, head of the Kinshasa-based human rights organisation ASADHO, told AFP.
He added that "the fact the sentence was reduced from 20 years to a maximum of one year shows that the case against them was groundless".
The regional court in the western province of Bandundu convicted the group of rebellion and conspiracy for planning a march last month to protest high water and electricity bills and mismanagement of their province.
Authorities rounded up the 12 activists the day before the march.
According to several rights groups, including ASADHO, the arrests were carried out on the orders of province governor Jean Kamisendu Kutuka.
ACAJ, another Congolese rights group, also said police had "severely tortured" the activists in custody.
According to ASADHO, the activists had asked for more time to prepare for their trial, but that "the judges categorically refused", convicting them without hearing their defence arguments.