Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release of Aloys Kabura, correspondent in Kayanza, northern Burundi for the state-owned Agence burundaise de presse (ABP), after serving a five-month jail sentence. He told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that he had been “unfairly” imprisoned and that the charges were “completely fabricated, because there were other reasons behind it.”
19.09.2006 - News agency reporter gets five months in prison for criticising government in a bar
Reporters Without Borders today voiced “deep concern about the future of democracy in Burundi” after Aloys Kabura, the state-owned Agence Burundaise de Presse’s correspondent in the northern city of Kanyanza, was sentenced yesterday by a court in Ngozi to five months in prison for “rebellion” and “defamatory statements.”
Kabura was arrested on 31 May for comments he made in Kayanza bar in which criticised the government and police for kidnapping a score of journalists for half a day on 17 April inside the home of a parliamentarian who had just been ousted from the ruling party.
“This verdict is outrageous and sickening,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Firstly, it shows that the Burundian intelligence services tell the police and courts what to do. Secondly, it shows their determination to crack down hard on all those who stray from the party line despite all the attempts at mediation and the appeals for reason. Finally, it means that a sick man who has committed no crime will have to stay in prison.”
Kabura learned of the verdict from two judges who went to see him in Ngozi prison. The court had handed down its verdict in a public hearing, but neither Kabura, his family nor his lawyers were present. Kabura has been in poor health since his third week in detention. Requests for his release on bail on medical grounds were ignored.
He had reported being watched and threatened by the police prior to his arrest after he wrote a story in January about sugar smuggling across the border with Rwanda that allegedly receives police protection.
14.06.2006 - Legal shenanigans keep outspoken news agency reporter in prison
Reporters Without Borders today called for the release of Aloys Kabura of the government-owned Agence Burundaise de Presse (ABP), who has been kept in detention for the past two weeks in the northern city of Kayanza by means legal irregularities and manoeuvres by the local prosecutor. Kabura was arrested on 31 May for criticising the government while in a bar.
“This is typical of all legal cases that are subject to pressure from the police and politicians,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Kabura is clearly being singled out for speaking his mind. The Burundian courts must free Kabura at once to avoid becoming accomplices to the abuse of authority and shenanigans that put him in prison.”
According to prosecutor Jean Paul Manwagari, Kabura was arrested for “making defamatory statements about the regime on 21 April.” He was illegally imprisoned because the offence with which he was originally charged is punishable by a maximum of two months in prison or a fine of 5,000 Burundian francs and, under Burundian law, pretrial custody can only be ordered in cases carrying a minimum penalty of a year in prison.
After realising the mistake, the prosecutor issued a new arrest warrant on 5 June listing additional offences and backdated it to before Kabura’s arrest. He is now accused of rebellion, insult and slanderous allegations. The prosecutor claims the original warrant was due to a secretarial mistake.
The Lawyers Without Borders organisation said it might take charge of Kabura’s defence. A custody hearing is now scheduled for 16 June.