Alleged Burundi coup leaders appear in court

Main coup leader, General Godefroid Niyombare has escaped but 17 other coup leaders face prosecution.

Coup leader Godefroid Niyombare, a general and ex-intelligence chief, was said to be still at large [AP]

Seventeen alleged coup leaders have appeared before a prosecutor in Burundi, their lawyer said, the day after the failure of an attempt to overthrow the country’s president.

The group that appeared in the high court on Saturday included General Cyrille Ndayirukiye and top police commissioners Zenon Ndabaneze and Hermenegilde Nimenya, who are accused of “attempting to overthrow the state”, lawyer Anatole Miburo said.

Coup leader Godefroid Niyombare, a general and ex-intelligence chief, was said to be still at large.

The lawyer alleged that they were beaten after their arrest on Friday, two days after Niyombare launched the bid to overthrow the president.

“They were seriously beaten, in particular General Ndayirukiye,” he said, saying the general had been forced to record a confession for broadcast on state media.

Journalists threatened 

Rights activist Innocent Muhozi said journalists were being subjected to threats of arrest and even death, and that the head of the prominent independent radio station RPA had been forced to flee the country.

Celestin Sadiki, an NGO worker in Bujumbura, told Al Jazeera that the journalists of three private radio stations (RPA, Bonesha and Isanganiro) were afraid.

“They want to break the journalists’ morale. There is harassment, phone calls, threats, blacklists. Some have gone into exile, others are in hiding,” said Innocent Muhozi, head of the Burundian Press Observatory.

He said African Public Radio (RPA) boss Bob Rugurika had been threatened and had fled abroad. There was no immediate reaction from the authorities.

Burundi’s main independent radio stations were attacked and put off the air by pro-Nkurunziza troops during the coup attempt, which began on Wednesday and ended on Friday morning after a failed attempt by the opposition members to seize Burundi’s state broadcaster.

General Niyombare had used an independent radio station to announce his bid to overthrow Nkurunziza, and independent media have been accused of stirring weeks of protests against the president that have left around 25 people dead.

Uneasy calm

The capital itself was largely calm on Saturday, AFP news agency correspondents said.

Authorities said 12 rebel soldiers died in the fighting, although there was no independent confirmation of casualty figures.

In a sign of ongoing tensions, European aid groups also evacuated their foreign staff, a diplomat said.

On Friday President Pierre Nkurunziza thanked loyalist forces for crushing the coup attempt and warned demonstrators to end weeks of protests against his controversial bid to seek a third consecutive term in office.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies