Bujumbura, 10 June 2008 (FH) - The Appeals Court of Bujumbura has acquitted four journalists, working for three privately owned stations, who were jailed for alleged violations to the national security of the country.

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The accused journalists are Domitile Kiramvu and Serge Nibizi of the R.P.A. (African Public Radio), Mathias Manirakiza of Isanganiro Radio and Corneille Nibaruta of RSF Bonesha FM.

The judgement of the first instance court was delivered on 3 February but it was turned over by the Appeals court last week.

The three radio stations had accused the government of denouncing a fake coup and a simulation attack in preparation at the presidential palace and the residence of the leader of the CNDD-FDD (the party in power). These events occurred after the imprisonment of the former President Domitien Ndayizeye and his Vice-President Alphonse Marie Kadege.

Kiranvu and Nibizi were imprisoned on 22 November 2006, in Mpimba central prison and four days later, Manirakiza was convicted. Nibaruta, who fled to Kampala, returned after the appeals judgment.

One of the defence counsels, François Nyamoya, stated after the appeals court decision that the judges have "pronounced the law", however, which did not astonish him.

"I was always astonished by the stubbornness of the public ministry as the Supreme Court crushed the coup", added Nyamoya.

One of the acquitted, Kiramvu, said that he can now sigh with relief. "I will not say that I am happy, but it is a relief for me", she declared.

The journalist, well known in Burundi, encouraged the judges not to fall into the government trap but deliver justice without fear or favour.

"Hats off to the judges who acquitted us in spite of the government pressure...the judges should not be tools of the government", she stressed.


© Hirondelle News Agency