Reporters Without Borders is disappointed that a Bujumbura court decided today to maintain Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, the editor of the online newspaper Net Press, in pre-trial detention.
The judges have not yet set any date for the next hearing in his case.
02.09.2010 - Judges urged to release editor awaiting trial on treason charge
Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of Jean Claude Kavumbagu, the editor of the online newspaper Net Press, who appeared in court yesterday for a hearing on the legality of his detention since 17 July on a charge of treason. The court said it would issue its ruling tomorrow.
“We urge the judges to reach an equitable decision,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Kavumbagu has been unjustly held for the past six weeks pending trial on a treason charge that is baseless. Pre-trial detention is supposed to be an exception. He should not be in detention when his trial starts".
Kavumbagu was arrested on 17 July because of article about the possibility of Burundi being the target for a terrorist attack. He could be sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted on the charge of treason. More information.
21.07.2010 - Online newspaper editor arrested on treason charge
Reporters Without Borders is concerned about Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, the editor of the online newspaper Net Press. Arrested while on his way to work on 17 July, he is being held on a charge of treason because of a 12 July article about the possibility of Burundi being the next target for a terrorist attack by the Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab. Link to the article.
“We condemn Kavumbagu’s latest arrest, which reflects the way the authorities have always hounded this well-known government critic,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This is the fifth time he has been arrested in 14 years of working as a journalist. There is absolutely no justification for the charge in the offending article, which just raises what could be a real problem for Burundi.”
Kavumbagu was arrested by western Burundi’s police chief, Col. David Nikiza, who showed him two arrest warrants signed by Bujumbura deputy prosecutor Rénovat Tabu. After being questioned for two hours in Tabu’s office, he was placed in detention in Bujumbura’s Mpimba prison on a charge of treason.
He was questioned by Tabu again yesterday but no date has so far been set for his trial.
Kavumbagu’s lawyer, Gabriel Sinarinzi, told Reporters Without Borders: “What he is alleged to have done does not constitute an act of treason. According to article 570 of the criminal code, an act of treason can only be committed in war time and Burundi is not at war.”
Sinarinzi added: “Our client’s arrest and placement in provisional detention are arbitrary and illegal measures that violate the rules of criminal procedure. Provisional detention is meant to be used above all to prevent any disturbance of public order. But there have been no security incidents since the article’s publication that could justify such a summary arrest.”
Kavumbagu never received any summons to report to the deputy prosecutor’s office for the purposes of an investigation and he was not given any opportunity to be accompanied by a lawyer during the first interrogation. “We call for his release and the withdrawal of the charges against him,” Reporters Without Borders added.
The last time Kavumbagu was jailed was in September 2008, when he was arrested on a charge of defaming the president and spent six months in prison before being acquitted in March 2009.