News24

Burundi frees 'treason' journalist

2011-05-16 21:59

Bujumbura - A Burundi court freed on Monday a local journalist detained for 10 months on treason charges for questioning the east African country's ability to respond to an attack by Islamist militants.

Jean Claude Kavumbagu, who runs the online news agency Net Press, was arrested last July for saying Burundi would not be able to cope if attacked by Somalia's al-Shabaab rebels.

The court did, however, find Kavumbagu guilty of publishing stories that could affect national security and the economy and sentenced him to eight months in jail as well as an $80 fine. He was freed on consideration of time already served.

"I am so happy to regain my freedom and look forward to resuming my work and being reunited with my family," Kavumbagu told journalists outside the gate of the capital Bujumbura's main prison.

Burundi is a declared target for al-Shabaab militants because it has troops in an African Union peacekeeping force that is helping prop up Somalia's Western-backed government in the face of a four-year insurgency.

A prosecutor last month requested life imprisonment for Kavumbagu.

The Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) welcomed Kavumbagu's release but challenged the grounds of his arrest.

"The process was inordinately long and this ruling establishes a dangerous precedent for journalists," EAJA Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman said in a statement.