Burundi jails anti-corruption campaigner
The case comes amid criticism from rights groups that President Pierre Nkurunziza's government is increasingly cracking down on freedom of expression a year after it took power.
Gabriel Rufyiri, chairman of the Organisation for the Fight Against Corruption and Economic Embezzlement (OLUCOME), was sent to prison late on Wednesday after appearing before a judge.
OLUCOME earlier this year had publicly denounced the sale of 1,500 tonnes of beans and 1,800 barrels of palm oil to Burundi's national police, saying it was full of irregularities.
The group said some of the sellers were fictitious and that the businessman who sold the products had done so at much higher prices, costing the state nearly $300,000.
"The judge has violated procedure because he had not yet carried out any inquiries to know if the irregularities denounced by the anti-corruption group were true or false," Rufyiri's lawyer Prosper Niyoyankana told Reuters.
"He should have at least some indications of guilt before jailing Mr Rufyiri," Niyoyankana, also OLUCOME general-secretary, added.
Government and police officials were not immediately available for comment.
Burundi is tasting relative peace for the first time since 1993, when the assassination of its first democratically elected Hutu president by Tutsi paratroopers sparked a cycle of ethnic reprisals that killed 300,000 people over 12 years.
Niyoyankana said the arrest was sending a clear message.
"This is a strategy of intimidating people who reveal cases of corruption and economic embezzlement. We demand the government release the head of the group immediately and without any conditions," he said.
In a separate case, OLUCOME was one of 20 civil society groups to ask the government this month to re-run the sale of the presidential plane, saying controversy over the transaction could lead donors to suspend aid.
The groups said the sale was done too quickly and that the government had not accepted the highest bid, losing $2 million.
The government has said the sale was legitimate.
Finance Minister Dieudonne Ngowembona, in charge of the sale committee, told Reuters the highest bidder had presented "confusing documents".
"The technical document specified that bidders needed to present original papers but he presented photocopied documents which looked worrisome to me," Ngowembona said.
"As I was in charge of the sale, and the government wanted it to be done quickly, I decided to disqualify this bidder."
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Burundi, human rights, Current Affairs, Politics, Africa