Burundi rights chief trial opens

2014-07-05 07:25

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Bujumbura - The trial of one of Burundi's most respected human rights activists opened on Friday on charges of "endangering" national security that could see him jailed for five years.

Around 2 000 supporters gathered at the court singing songs and shouting in support of Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, president of the rights group Aprodeh, who was arrested in May.

Mbonimpa, awarded the International Red Cross' highest decoration, The Henry Dunant Medal, for his commitment to human rights, has campaigned for years against a series of killings of opposition members in the volatile nation.

"Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa endangered the domestic and external security of the country," prosecutor Arcade Nimbona told the court, reading the charge sheet, which also included charges of libel.

Mbonimpa, who turned up at the court under heavy guard, is accused of speaking on an independent radio in May criticising what he said was the paramilitary training of members of the youth wing of the ruling party in neighbouring eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the distribution of weapons to them.

Prosecutors described them as "very serious offences".

At times, the shouts from supporters surrounding the court drowned out those speaking inside, according to an AFP journalist.

Burundi is growing increasingly tense in the run-up to a presidential election in 2015.

Mbonimpa was arrested after a leaked UN report that claimed the government was arming young supporters ahead of elections.

The government fiercely denied the allegations and ordered a top UN official out of the country.

Burundi is still healing from decades of civil war but is growing increasingly tense in the run-up to the polls, when President Pierre Nkurunziza is set to campaign for a third term in office despite a two-term constitutional limit.

Lawyers for 65-year-old Mbonimpa filed a plea for his release on bail due to ill health and age.

Over a dozen diplomats including from the United States, France, Belgium, the United Nations and the European Union crammed into the courtroom.

"This is unacceptable," one of his angry supporters said. "It is as if the authorities do not want to hear his arguments."

Read more on:    pierre nkurunziza  |  burundi  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.