The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the life sentence request by the prosecution against Hassan Ruvakiki a broadcaster in Burundi, who was arrested in November 2011 by security forces following the broadcasting of an interview with a rebel leader.
“We are extremely appalled by the prosecutor’s request. We remind Burundi authorities who have been pressurising journalists since last year that giving the floor to a rebel leader should not be criminalized. We call for a fair and civil trial, and the release of Ruvakiki”, said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director.
Ruvakiki works for local Radio Bonesha FM was last Monday presented to the Provincial High Court in Cankuzo after the case stalled for four months during which he was kept in jail. According to the Union of Burundi Journalist (UBJ), an IFJ affiliate, the chief prosecutor on May 8, requested during a hearing, a life sentence. The prosecutor said Ruvakiki is accused of act of terrorism by interviewing and broadcasting the interview of a rebel leader.
Ruvakiki was arrested and detained since last November after the government accused him of complicity with "terrorists”. He was arrested without a warrant and his house was searched shortly after he visited neighbouring Tanzania where he interviewed a leader of a rebel group.
Last February his defence complained about the attitude of judges hearing the case who were accused of having blocked the defence’s access to the prosecution files. The case against Ruvakiki amounted to “persecution of journalists” said UBJ president, Alexandre Niyungeko