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Burundi trial of failed coup members opens


gavelThe trial of 28 men accused of launching a failed coup in Burundi opened Monday, including the alleged second in command, a former defence minister and army general named Cyrille Ndayirukiye.

Burundi’s crisis began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term, which he went on to win in July. On May 13-14, soldiers staged the failed coup bid.

The defendants, who appeared under tight security in a court room in Gitega, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of the capital Bujumbura, are charged with an “attempted coup and calling for a popular uprising, killing soldiers, policemen and civilians, and the malicious destruction of buildings,” the prosecutor Adolphe Manirakiza said.

The prisoners, all senior military and police officials, told the court they were being held in tiny cells in “inhumane and degrading” conditions.

They face possible life imprisonment if found guilty.

Defence lawyer Onesime Kabayabaya said the trial should be stopped.

“We requested the postponement of the trial because the conditions for a fair trial are not met,” he said, saying he had not had “sufficient access to the case file”, also noting the “disgraceful conditions in which our clients are imprisoned.”

Months of street protests in Burundi have devolved into regular armed attacks with gunfire disrupting the nights and dead bodies appearing on city streets almost every day.

Hundreds of people have been killed, including at least 87 on Friday when armed rebels attacked three military installations in Bujumbura.

Attacks targeting the security forces have escalated, with rebels armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars attacking police convoys and targeting government installations.

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