Former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his sentence on 21 June 2016. Photo: ICC-CPI

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice president and rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for bribing witnesses during his war crimes trial.

In a ruling on Monday, The Hague-based court handed Bemba a 12-month sentence and a 300,000 euros ($350,000) fine for tampering with witnesses in an earlier hearing over possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by fighters he sent to suppress a coup in neighbouring Central African Republic between October 2002 and 2003.

He will not return to jail because of the sentence, having served time after being found guilty following the war crimes case in 2016. Bemba, who had been in ICC detention since 2008, was acquitted on appeal in June.

After a decade in prison, Bemba returned to DRC on August 1 to submit his candidacy for the country’s December 23 presidential election.

But the 55-year-old, a popular opposition leader, was barred on September 3 from standing because of the conviction for witness tampering.

According to DRC law, those found guilty of corruption are prohibited from running for president.