9 November 2012

Burundi: RFI Reporter Appeals Against Life Sentence

RFI correspondent Hassan Ruvakuki faced a Burundi appeal court on Thursday in a bid to overturn a life sentence on terrorism charges. Cries of protest broke out when the prosecutor insisted that the reporter had "taken part in an act of terrorism".

"I'm a journalist," not a terrorist, Ruvakuki told the court in his first opportunity to defend himself since his arrest.

He and his five lawyers argued with prosecutors for two hours in the appeal court at Gitega.

Ruvakuki, a correspondent for RFI's Swahili service as well as other media, is accused of helping an armed rebel group because he visited their camp in neighbouring Tanzania for a report.

The public gallery erupted in laughter when one of Ruvakuki's lawyers asked if collecting information is a crime for a journalist.

"If someone collects information to carry out an attack, that's a crime," was prosecutor Emmanuel Nyandwi.

The appeal continued Friday and the verdict on Ruvakuki and 22 co-defendants will be given within two months.

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