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News website editor Jean-Claude Kavumbagu acquitted of defamation after six months in detention

(JED/IFEX) - On 18 March 2009, Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, editor of the Net Press news website, was acquitted of defaming Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza and released from Mpimba central prison, where he has been detained since 11 September 2008. The decision to release the editor was made the night before, but the procedure took 24 hours.

Kavumbagu published an article on the Net Press website, claiming that president Nkurunziza had spent 100 million Burundian francs (approx. 60,000 euros) during his visit to Beijing for the Olympic Games opening ceremony. The government's secretary-general filed a defamation complaint in response to the allegation, insisting that he was only given 50 million Burundian francs (approx. 30,000 euros) for the trip.

In a telephone conversation with Journaliste en danger (JED) shortly after his release, Kavumbagu stated his relief at "finally being free" and said that he believes his prolonged detention was "politically motivated."

JED welcomes Kavumbagu's acquittal, which brings to light the futility of imposing prison sentences for press offences such as defamation. JED urges the Burundian authorities to follow the lead of other Central African countries in decriminalising press offences.

Updates the Kavumbagu case:

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