Prosecutors on Friday sought sentences up to life imprisonment for six soldiers on trial over the killing of more than 50 people at an anti-UN rally in eastern DR Congo.

On August 30, soldiers stopped a religious sect from holding a demonstration in Goma against the presence of United Nations peacekeepers in the DRC.

At least 57 people were killed in the crackdown, according to the latest official toll.

Prosecutors at the North Kivu military court sought life behind bars for Colonel Mike Mikombe, commander of the elite Republican Guard in Goma, and two sentences of 10 years and three of 20 years for the other five defendants, an officer and four soldiers.

Prosecutor Colonel Michel Kachil claimed Mikombe had committed "war crimes and crimes against humanity".

The attack caused a resurgence of tension in Goma, capital of a province long plagued by violence.

In the aftermath, the government quickly announced the arrest of several soldiers and promised that justice would be done.

Interior Minister Peter Kazadi, among others, has said the Republican Guard intervened after the lynching of a police officer by members of the religious sect.

But witnesses -- including two army colonels, sect members and residents -- say the operation began before the police officer died.

The same witnesses said that before the shooting began, negotiations with the army were progressing calmly -- but soldiers then opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators.

It remains to be established whether Mikombe, who has denied the charges, gave the order to shoot -- and, if he did, whether he was following orders or acted on his own initiative.

He has suggested in court that he was misled by an operational order identifying the sect members as proxies of M23 rebels and the Rwandan army.

The M23 has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu province since 2021 -- one of several militias holding sway over much of the region despite the presence of peacekeepers.

Independent UN experts, the Kinshasa government and several Western nations accuse Rwanda of backing the Tutsi-led M23 -- claims Rwanda denies.

The trial, which began earlier in September, continues on Saturday with closing arguments from the defence.