One of RFI’s Swahili service’s correspondents in Burundi, Hassan Ruvakuki, has been jailed for life, along with 13 other defendants, after being found guilty of “terrorist acts” because he interviewed the leader of a rebel group based in neighbouring Tanzania. Ruvakuki, who also works for Bonesha FM radio, was arrested in November after the Forces for the Restoration of Democracy (FRD) carried out a deadly attack in the eastern town of Cankuzo.
Along with three other people, he was accused of complicity in the attack and giving it publicity because he interviewed its leader in Tanzania.
On 20 June a Cankuzo court found Ruvakuki and 13 other defendants guilty of working with the FRD and gave them a life sentence.
Nine other defendants were imprisoned for 15 years.
Ruvakuki is to appeal but has been unable to do so so far because the court has not given a copy of its judgement to the defence, according to his lawyer Onesime Kabayabaya.
Human rights groups in Burundi declared the verdict “unjust” and “wicked”.
“I don’t know why they were in such a hurry to jail a journalist who was only doing his job,” declared Pacifique Nininahazwe, of the Forsc coalition of rights groups, on Saturday. “In fact the problem in this country is that the judicial system is not independent.”
Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières has also condemned the verdict, as have the journalists’s association at RFI and the French journalists’ union, SNJ.
Burundian journalists are considering a boycott of independence celebration on 1 July in protest at the verdict and several radio stations have condemned it.
Source: Radio France International
Date: 27 June 2012