Exiled Burundi coup plotters bag life sentences in absentia

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The Burundi Supreme Court has sentenced those accused of plotting a coup in 2015 to life imprisonment last year, documents made public for the first time by local media on Saturday revealed.

Those sentenced to life imprisonment include former army generals, politicians, journalists and right activists – all sentenced in absentia, with court documents showing that a total of 34 suspects were found guilty in June 2020.

Those found guilty by the court include: Godefroid Niyombare – a general and the alleged leader of the plot, Bernard Busokoza – a former vice-president, Potien Gaciyubwenge – a former defence minister, Onesime Nduwimana – a former communications minister.

Others are; Leonidas Hatungimana – a former presidential spokesman, Marguerite Barankitse – a government critic and Onesime Nduwimana – a former opposition MP.

The court also ordered the accused to pay collective fine 1.5bn Burundi francs ($780,000; £567,000) to victims of the coup, which includes the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

“This is a case of hatred. And a hidden political trial,” Mr Nduwimana one of the suspects told the BBC.

“A group trial that doesn’t show everyone’s role, a trial that no suspect attended, it is only a case of hatred, and political decision paper given to judges to sign on,” he added.

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