RFI Burundi reporter to appeal against life sentence on terror charge
RFI correspondent Hassan Ruvakuki is being held in a cell with 20 other prisoners in a colonial-era prison in Burundi, condemned to life imprisonment for reporting on an armed group based in neighbouring Tanzania. Ahead of his appeal, which starts on 8 October, he has published an open letter insisting he is not a “terrorist”, as his accusers claim.
Ruvakuki , who reports for RFI's Swahili service, is being held in Muramvya, about 100 kilometres from Bujumbura, in a prison built for 100 inmates in colonial times. It now holds 500, according to RFI’s Jean-Karim Fall who visited him this week.
He shares a cell with 19 other prisoners, Fall reports, but a doctor who has examined him says that he is in good health.
Ten months ago Ruvakuki and 13 codefendants were jailed for life in a trial where they refused to plead, citing numerous irregularities in procedure.
They were accused of “acts of terrorism” after visiting a rebel group in Tanzania to report on its activities.
In a letter handed to Fall, Ruvakuki insists he is innocent.
“I have never belonged to a political party, let alone an armed movement,” he declares and goes on to give a detailed account of his movements during the period where his alleged crimes are supposed to have taken place.
Diplomats from France, Belgium, the European Union and the United Nations will attend the appeal.
Ruvakuki’s wife, Fatou, lives in Bujumbura with their daughter, Mirna, who was born in January when her father was already in prison.