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Reporter for French radio faces life sentence for 'terrorism'

Hassan Ruvakuki, a journalist working for Radio France Internationale (RFI), was among 13 men sentenced to life in prison on terrorism charges in Burundi Wednesday. Ruvakuki denies the charges and plans to appeal the decision.


Radio France International (RFI) journalist Hassan Ruvakuki was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison by a court in Burundi on terrorism charges, spurring outrage among African and French news companies.

The court in the eastern province of Cankuzo ruled that Ruvakuki, a Burundian national, was guilty of aiding Burundian rebels based in neighbouring Tanzania.

The radio journalist was arrested in November 2011 in the capital city of Bujumbura on charges of helping organise the guerrilla group behind an attack in Cankuzu.

Denies charges

Ruvakuki has formally denied the charges against him, and said he would appeal the court’s decision. He was alongside 13 other men handed life sentences in Wednesday’s ruling. Nine other men were sentenced to 15 years in jail each, also on terrorism charges.

Radio Bonesha FM, a local station that also employed Ruvakuki, said the court’s decision was “an embarrassment to the Burundian justice system, for the country and its government.”

RFI and its affiliated television news channel, FRANCE 24, expressed shock after the ruling.

“Our colleague was condemned by Burundi’s justice system for doing his job. Hassan Ruvakuki will appeal this sentence and he can count on our support,” the two news media organisations said in a joint statement.

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