Three rights activists sentenced to 10 years in Burundi

Nairobi - Three civil rights activists in Burundi accused of undermining security have been sentenced in their absence to 10 years in prison, judicial sources said on Friday.

Emmanuel Nshimirimana, Aime Constant Gatore and Marius Nizigiyimana, members of the campaign group Parcem, had been planning a human rights workshop, according to fellow activists.

"Our friends have not yet been officially notified but it is unfortunately confirmed," Faustin Ndikumana, the head of Parcem told AFP.

The sentence was confirmed by judicial sources.

They were arrested in June last year in possession of documents about the rights workshop, which the court said included comments from opposition activists but not government officials, Ndikumana claimed.

Judges at the court in Muramvya, in central Burundi, announced the verdict without representation from the defendants' lawyers, an activist who asked not to be named told AFP.

The prosecutor had requested between 20 and 25 years imprisonment for the trio who were accused of having "prepared actions likely to disrupt security".

"This is the first time in history that members of a civil society group in Burundi have been sentenced in this way, a sign that power no longer tolerates civil society in our country," Gabriel Rufyiri, a well-known activist in the country, said.

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Burundi has been facing a serious political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2015 sought a fiercely contested third term in office.

The violence has claimed at least 1 200 lives and displaced more than 400 000 people between April 2015 and May 2017, according to estimates by the International Criminal Court, which has opened an investigation.

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