Burundi court jails 21 for life over coup bid

Tuesday May 10 2016

Heavily armed police patrol the streets in Bujumbura on April 12, 2016. Hundreds have been killed and a quarter of a million people have fled Burundi since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision April 2015 to run for a third term, a vote he won amid opposition boycotts in July. PHOTO | AFP

Heavily armed police patrol the streets in Bujumbura on April 12, 2016. Hundreds have been killed and a quarter of a million people have fled Burundi since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision April 2015 to run for a third term, a vote he won amid opposition boycotts in July. PHOTO | AFP 

By AFP
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BUJUMBURA

Burundi’s Supreme Court on Monday slapped life sentences on 21 army officers involved in a supposed coup plot in May last year.

The court had in January given 30-year jail terms to nine officers and sentenced eight other soldiers to five years while acquitting seven others.

But prosecutors appealed the initial sentence. The decision is however not binding as it can be appealed once more.

“Twenty-one officers including the main accused like General Cyrille Ndayirukiye were sentenced to life,” a judicial source said, speaking in the central city of Gitega.

The source said two senior army officers initially acquitted were also given life terms.

Prosecutors had said in January that they wanted all jailed for life and the seven acquitted to face a re-trial.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Burundi’s capital on Monday vowed to crush “terrorists” blamed for a spate of weekend grenade attacks that left three people dead and about 20 injured.

Hundreds have been killed and a quarter of a million people have fled Burundi since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision April 2015 to run for a third term, a vote he won amid opposition boycotts in July.

Anti-government protests were brutally quashed and killings and attacks have become a regular feature in the troubled country as a political crisis shows no sign of abating.

Bujumbura mayor Freddy Mbonimpa told AFP that three people had died in the capital since Friday in “terrorist acts targeting peaceful citizens.”

“These terrorists are trying to instil panic... we are in the process of breaking up these terrorist groups with the help of the local population,” he said.