Democratic Republic of Congo’s former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba has left the detention centre of the International Criminal Court following his acquittal of war crimes after a decade behind bars, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Bemba “left the DU (detention unit) yesterday evening,” the former warlord’s lawyer, Peter Haynes, told AFP.

The heavy-set Congolese politician was acquitted on appeal last Friday by the ICC in a surprise decision.

The court ruled that he could not be held criminally liable for crimes committed by his troops in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003.

Bemba, 55, had been sentenced unanimously to 18 years in 2016 by ICC trial judges after a decade behind bars following his arrest in Belgium.

Haynes said Bemba plans to return to Brussels to be united with his wife and five children.

A source familiar with the matter said that Bemba had left the ICC’s detention centre but remained under observation by the court pending a green light from the Belgian authorities.

“Mr Bemba will remain within the ICC’s sphere until he is released into the care of a state willing to accept him,” most probably Belgium, the source familiar with the matter told AFP.

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