Burundi court to issue verdict on coup plotters this week

by Reuters
Tuesday, 12 January 2016 13:45 GMT

NAIROBI, Jan 12 (Reuters) - A Burundi court will announce its verdict this week in the trial of the former defence minister and 27 others accused of being behind a foiled coup in May, a Justice Ministry official said on Tuesday.

The former minister, Cyrille Ndayirukiye, and five other generals are among the group on trial for seeking to topple President Pierre Nkurunziza, who plunged the nation into a crisis last year over his re-election for a third term.

Justice Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Bangiricenge told Reuters the verdict by the court in Gitega, a town about 100 km (60 miles) east of Bujumbura, would be announced on Thursday.

She gave no further details but previously said they were charged with "an attempt to unseat the country's constitutional institutions", as well as assassinations and other violent acts.

The coup was launched on May 13 by military officers led by Major General Godefroid Niyombare, the former intelligence chief, while Nkurunziza was abroad. It was swiftly quashed.

Niyombare's fate is unclear. He has not spoken publicly since the coup, although another general who fled after the coup attempt has said he was alive and still leading a rebellion.

The former defence minister, like others in the group, pleaded guilty to attempting a coup but denied charges of killing police officers and others, or of providing weapons to civilians for an insurgency.

Ndayirukiye told the court during the trial that those behind the coup "acted within the Arusha agreement and in a bid to protect the population," a reference to the Arusha peace accords that ended Burundi's 12-year civil war in 2005.

Last year, protesters accused police of shooting at them, a charge police denied.

"I couldn't sit idle while police were killing the population, Nkurunziza playing soccer and soldiers seemingly indifferent," he said.

Opponents accuse Nkurunziza, a keen soccer player and fan, of violating the constitution and the Arusha accords by running for a third term. A court ruled he could run again.

Another former general on trial, Helmenegilde Nimenya, told the court that in the face of "orders to the police to kill peaceful citizens, we couldn't do otherwise." (Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.