Belgian calls on Burundi to free political prisoners

26th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Charles Michel called for their release, calling for "transparency and respect of the rights of all".

BUJUMBURA - A Belgian minister has called on Bujumbura to free three political detainees and said free and fair elections in Burundi next year were key to improving bilateral ties, a radio reported Wednesday.

Visiting Cooperation Minister Charles Michel called for the release of Burundian politician Alexis Sinduhije, union leader Juvenal Rududura and journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu in remarks made Tuesday to private RPA radio.

Former colonial power Brussels is also earmarking four million euros (five million dollars) in new aid to Burundi, half of which will help finance the 2010 general elections, he said.

"Political stability, the unfolding of the 2010 elections with transparency and respect of the rights of all can give us confidence to further realise our partnership to benefit the Burundi population," Michel said.

One of Burundi's prominent journalists, Sinduhije was arrested last November on charges of insulting President Pierre Nkurunziza. He is expected to be tried shortly.

The other two detainees are in jail for remarks against the government, with no trial date set.

The country's parliament approved a new electoral commission earlier this month, after the senate rejected a previously proposed commission arguing the members had been cherry-picked by Nkurunziza.

The tiny east African country is still emerging from 13 years of civil war that killed more than 300,000 people.


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