Small sign of hope as court aquits 3 Burundi journalists
Serge Nibizi and Domitile Kiramvu, both of African Public radio (RPA), were arrested in November, accused of violating legislation on secret information by reporting on a coup plot case while investigations were pending.
Mathias Manirakiza, director of Radio Isanganiro was detained a week later, facing charges of allowing the station to broadcast information that would breach state security.
All three, whose arrests were Burundi's latest legal tussle between media and authorities, had pleaded innocent.
"The court has received complaints by the public prosecution but declare them unfounded," judge Francois Naraguma said.
"Charges of breaking media law were not established, consequently the court decides to acquit Serge Nibizi, Domitile Kiramvu and Mathias Manirakiza."
In December, prosecutors had demanded a three-year jail term for the journalists.
President Pierre Nkurunziza's government, which came to power in 2005 under a peace plan to end more than a decade of civil war that killed 300 000 people, has come under increased pressure over its record on democracy and freedom of expression.
The suspected coup plotters, who include former President Domitien Ndayizeye, were arrested in August, accused of planning to kill Nkurunziza and seize power.
Burundian law states the journalists must be freed immediately, but legal procedures are likely to delay this until Thursday. Defence lawyer, Raphael Gahungu, welcomed the ruling.
"The three journalists were unjustly arrested," he said. "I hope things will improve in the future so that people won't be jailed without reason.
Burundi, human rights, Current Affairs, Politics, Africa