Reporters Without Borders welcomes yesterday’s provisional release of Thierry Ndayishimiye, the editor of the weekly Arc-en-ciel, after two days in pre-trial detention in Bujumbura on a charge of libelling the head of the national water and power company, REGIDESO.
REGIDESO’s director-general filed a complaint against Ndayishimiye on 30 July over an article accusing him of covering up irregularities in the management of a construction project that led to the loss of around 280 million francs (177,000 euros) for the company.
The newspaper based its allegations on a special internal report signed by the director general recommending that the company act quickly to correct the irregularities.
After summoning Ndayishimiye several times for questioning, Bujumbura’s deputy state prosecutor placed him in pre-trial detention on a charge of defamation on 10 August.
Speaking to Reporters Without Borders after Ndayishimiye’s release, his lawyer, Gabriel Sinarinzi, said: “I thank the judges who understood that press offences are not crimes. There were no grounds for placing my client in pre-trial detention under the code of criminal procedure. Presumption of innocence and non-detention must continue to prevail before any trial.”
Sinarinzi added: “Thierry Ndayishimiye will continue to respond to court summonses and when the trial is held, we will prove his innocence.”
The editor of the online newspaper Net Press, Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, is meanwhile still in prison. He has been in pre-trial detention since 17 July on a charge of treason. A panel of three judges was supposed to rule on the legality of his detention at the start of August but the hearing was not held because the head of the panel was promoted and a new judge has to be named.
“This is a stalling tactic designed to delay the resumption of the trial as long as possible,” said Sinarinzi, who is also Kavumbagu’s lawyer. “The provisional release of Arc-en-ciel’s editor should serve as a wake-up call for these judges. Jean-Claude Kavumbagu should be freed at once.”
Kavumbagu is facing the possibility of a life sentence if convicted. Link to the most recent press release.