Burundi arrests rights activist for endangering state security

by Reuters
Saturday, 17 May 2014 10:57 GMT

BUJUMBURA, May 16 (Reuters) - A Burundi prosecutor has ordered the jailing of a prominent human rights activist on charges of spreading information that could endanger state security, the activist's lawyer said.

In recent months Burundi has been cracking down on the opposition and rights activists who say planned constitutional changes could upset a delicate ethnic power balance and allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third term.

The proposed constitutional amendments have stirred the worst political crisis in the east African country since the 12-year civil war ended in 2005, and raised fears of new turmoil.

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, head of the association for the protection and defense of prisoners and human rights (APRODH), was arrested on Thursday night at Burundi's international airport.

Mbonimpa's lawyer, Antoine Nzobandora, said his client was arrested after posting revelations through local media about alleged weapons distribution to youth groups affiliated to the ruling CNDD-FDD party. He also said youths were receiving paramilitary training in neighbouring Congo.

Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana told Reuters Mbonimpa's allegations were all "false and baseless".

"Those spreading over that information simply want to discredit the government," he said.

Mbonimpa, who has been in police custody since Friday, is expected to face a panel of judges within a week who will decide whether to grant him bail.

"Once my client brought before the council of judges I will prove he is innocent," Nzobandora said. (Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana, Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Angus MacSwan)

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