BUJUMBURA, 7 February 2021 – Burundi’s Supreme Court sentenced those accused of plotting a coup in 2015 in the country to life imprisonment.
The convicted include a former army general (Gen. Godefroit Niyombare), a former vice president (Bernard Busokoza), a former defense minister (Potient Gaciyubwenge), a former communication minister (Onesime Nduwimana), and a former presidential spokesperson (Leonidas Hatungimana).
“This is a case of hatred. And a hidden political trial,” former communication minister, Nduwimana, told the BBC in a phone interview.
“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,” Nduwimana added.
The other convicts include a former opposition member of parliament, a government critic, journalists and rights activists.
A total of 34 suspects were found guilty and all were sentenced in absentia in June 2020, according to court records released Friday.
In addition to life in prison, the court ordered the convicted to pay a total of 1.5 billion Burundian francs ($780,000) in a collective fine to victims of the coup and uprising.
The victims listed as beneficiaries include the ruling CNDD-FDD party.
Reports say thousands of people were killed in the 2015 riots described as a coup attempt.
Hundreds of thousands of people, including those convicted of reportedly plotting the coup, fled the country into exile in neighboring Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and DR Congo.