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Twitter users back detained Burundi schoolgirls

Tuesday March 26 2019
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The three schoolgirls arrested for defacing photos of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. PHOTO | TWITTER

By BBC

Twitter users have rallied to the cause of three schoolgirls arrested for defacing photos of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza by following their example.

Crudely doctored images of the leader are being circulated online under the hashtag, #FreeOurGirls.

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An edited image of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. PHOTO | TWITTER

The girls were charged last week with insulting the head of state and could spend up to five years in prison.

SCARED

Burundian authorities are routinely accused of cracking down on human rights and dissent.

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An altered image of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. PHOTO | TWITTER

The schoolgirls, aged 15,16 and 17, were arrested two weeks ago after the president's image was defaced in textbooks. Four other students arrested with them were later released.

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An edited image of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. PHOTO | TWITTER

The father of one of the detained girls told campaign group Human Rights Watch that they were too scared to eat.

ABUSES

HRW has urged the government to release the schoolgirls and concentrate on curbing abuses by the security forces.

"Authorities should focus on holding perpetrators of serious rights violations to account instead of jailing schoolchildren for doodles, the group's Central Africa director, Lewis Mudge, said.

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An edited image of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. Social media users have been altering Burundian President the president's image. PHOTO | TWITTER

In a similar case in 2016, several schoolchildren were imprisoned and hundreds expelled for scribbling on images of the president's face.

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