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Burundi implicates respected journalist in failed coup

November 25, 2015

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Buurndi’s government is seeking to extradite a prominent journalist from Belgium over charges he played a role in a failed coup attempt against the government, the journalist said Wednesday.

Burundi’s government alleges Antoine Kaburahe, director of the independent newspaper Iwacu, conspired with the generals who attempted to overthrow the president in May during violent protests against the president’s efforts to run for a third term, Kaburahe said in a statement.

Burundian justice officials questioned Kaburahe on Nov. 16 —before he traveled to Belgium — over why he had had phone conversations with the coup plotters, his lawyer Ramberi Nsabimana told AP Wednesday.

Kaburahe is alleged to have spoken over the phone with Cyrille Ndayirukiye, the deputy leader of the renegade generals, a day before the coup was launched.

Ndayirukiye was arrested in June but his alleged accomplices are believed to be in exile.

Carina Tertsakian, who researches Burundi for Human Rights Watch, said Kaburahe is a respected journalist and the allegations against him are “absurd.”

While almost all the other independent media in Burundi have been shut down, Antoine and other Iwacu journalists have continued with their work despite the threats, she said.

President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term, which many saw as unconstitutional, triggered months of violence, raising international concern.

At least 240 people have been killed since April, and about 215,000 have fled to neighboring countries, according to the U.N.

Both opponents and supporters of the government have been killed in apparent revenge attacks.

Burundi has a history of deadly conflicts between the country’s Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.

Nkurunziza took power in 2005 near the end of a civil war in which some 300,000 people were killed between 1993 and 2006.

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Eloge Willy Kaneza contributed to this report from Bujumbura, Burundi.

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