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Ex Burundian president Pierre Buyoya rejects his conviction for murder

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AFP

Burundi

Former Burundian President Pierre Buyoya, who is the current High Representative of the African Union for Mali and the Sahel, "rejected" Wednesday his conviction in absentia in Burundi to life imprisonment for the murder of his predecessor Melchior Ndadaye in 1993.

"We reject these judgements, which can in no way commit us," a statement from him signed by co-defendants says.

"Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, the new government has just proved to the world that it follows this line of lawlessness," they said.

Melchior Ndadaye, Burundi's first democratically elected president and the first Hutu to come to power, was assassinated in October 1993 in a military coup that would lead the country into a civil war between the army, dominated by the Tutsi minority, and Hutu rebel groups. It will result in 300,000 deaths until 2006.

Mr. Ndadaye had succeeded Mr. Buyoya, carried by the army in power in 1987 and who became president again in a new coup between 1996 and 2003, before handing over power to Domitien Ndayizeye, a Hutu, under a peace agreement signed in 2000 in Arusha (Tanzania).

Mr. Buyoya was convicted of "attack against the head of state, attack against the authority of the state and attack tending to bring about massacre and devastation", according to the text which only contains the operative part (conviction and sentence) of the decision handed down by the Supreme Court.

The name of Pierre Buyoya had already been cited in connection with this assassination, without the beginning of any proof being provided.

Eighteen senior military and civilian officials close to the former head of state were sentenced to the same sentence, three others to 20 years in prison for "complicity" in the same crimes and only one, the former transitional Prime Minister, Antoine Nduwayo, was acquitted.

Only five defendants, four retired Tutsi high-ranking officers and a serving police general, Ildephonse Mushwabure, were present at the trial.

According to Mr. Buyoya, the trial was conducted "in violation of the Arusha Accords" and was neither "fair" nor "equitable" as the rights of the defence were allegedly violated.

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