Trial opens for Burundi journo

2010-07-31 08:40

Bujumbura - A Burundian court opened the trial Friday of a journalist accused of treason for charging that the country's security forces were incapable of deterring an attack by Somali insurgents.

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu was arrested on July 17, days after explosions claimed by Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked Shebaab militants killed 76 people in Kampala.

Uganda and Burundi have contributed troops for the African Union mission in Somalia and the rebels said the attacks were in revenge for Uganda's presence in the Horn of Africa country.

"We argued that the arrest of our client was arbitrary and we called for his temporary release. The court adjourned for consultation," Kavumbagu's lawyer Gabriel Sinarinzi said.

Sinarinzi said that the charge of treason was only applicable at times of war in which Burundi currently is not. His client faces life in prison if convicted.

Kavumbagu's case has sparked huge interest and the courtroom was packed on Friday with a crowd that included European, US and United Nations envoys, according to an AFP correspondent.

The 45-year-old journalist is the director of Netpress, an online publication.

On July 12, a day after the Kampala bombings, he wrote that Burundians were convinced the Shebab would strike with "disconcerting ease because the security forces excel in looting and killing citizens rather than defending the country."
The latest arrest is Kavumbagu's fifth. He was lastly arrested in September 2008 for defamation and freed in March last year.