New York, April 12, 2011—Burundi, the only Sub-Saharan country jailing a journalist on treason charges, must halt a flawed prosecution of an online journalist imprisoned following his criticism of security forces, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
In a public letter issued ahead of a hearing on Wednesday, CPJ called on Burundi’s justice minister to intervene and stop the use of a charge reserved exclusively for wartime offenses under Burundi’s penal code. In the letter, CPJ argues for the release of the journalist, Jean Claude Kavumbagu, jailed in July 2010 and charged with treason for publishing an article criticizing the Burundi’s security forces’ preparedness to prevent a terrorist attack. If convicted of treason, Kavumbagu could face life imprisonment.
It is imperative that Burundi’s justice minister urge the state prosecutor to drop the charge against Kavumbagu, who edits the news website NetPress, and release him immediately. Not only is the charge flawed, but so is the government’s basis for keeping Kavumbagu in pre-trial detention—preventive detention only applies if the defendant has a history of violating bail conditions.
A CPJ delegation visited Kavumbagu at Bujumbura’s Mpimba prison in December 2010 and pressed for his release in meetings with Burundi’s First Vice President and Information Minister.
See the public letter in English and French at: