KINSHASA — A court in Democratic Republic of Congo sentenced a political opposition leader to five years in prison on Wednesday, a human rights advocate said, a judgment that risks imperiling multi-party talks meant to organize a presidential election next year.

The court found Franck Diongo, president of the opposition MLP party, guilty of illegally detaining three soldiers during violent protests last week in the capital Kinshasa that killed dozens, said Georges Kapiamba, a lawyer and human rights advocate who attended the trial.

Kapiamba told Reuters that Diongo was not able to defend himself because of failing health and called the decision “totally political”. The government has denied that the prosecution is politically motivated.

The verdict comes as representatives of President Joseph Kabila’s ruling coalition and the country’s main opposition bloc say they are near an accord under which Kabila would step down by the end of 2017 after an election to choose his successor.

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Featured image courtesy of Reuters.