Burundi has bowed to pressure and released three schoolgirls who were detained for allegedly scribbling on President Pierre Nkurunzinza's textbooks, Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine Kanyana told the BBC.
The detention of the girls about two weeks ago on a charge of insulting the head of state had led to a social media campaign under the hashtag #FreeOurGirls with people posting on Twitter images of the President defaced with clown wigs and other funny looking images.
Burundi has freed schoolgirls detained for doodling on President Pierre Nkurunziza's picture in textbooks. It wasn't surprising that the 7 girls were arrested. The big puzzle is what Nkurunziza's pictures are doing in textbooks. What are they teaching in Burundi? #FreeOurGirls pic.twitter.com/VUcm4Z8zC7
- Charles Onyango-Obbo (@cobbo3) March 27, 2019
Act like a Lamb (Children) doodle Nkurunziza #FreeOurGirls pic.twitter.com/Jb5b92dl2Y
- Sindumuja Musaga (@Rwanyubuja) March 23, 2019
Scribble away pic.twitter.com/5L9Kjy0dfP
- Libyan™ (@dovenews) March 25, 2019
The minister now says the girls -aged 15, 16 and 17- had been provisionally released.
"We call on parents to strengthen the education of their children. We remind children that they have to respect authorities, that the age of criminal responsibility is 15," she told state broadcaster RTNB.
The father of one of the detained girls told Human Rights Watch that they were too scared to even eat.
"Authorities should focus on holding perpetrators of serious rights violations to account instead of jailing schoolchildren for doodles," said the group's Central Africa director Lewis Mudge.