Four journalists imprisoned for a year in Burundi on charges that rights groups condemned as “baseless” have been released after receiving a presidential pardon, according to a decree seen by AFP on Thursday.AFP reports.
The journalists were working for Iwacu, the isolated African country’s last independent media outlet, when they were arrested in the western Bubanza province in October 2019 while covering an incursion of rebels from neighbouring DR Congo.
Agnes Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Terence Mpozenzi were charged with threatening state security and sentenced in January to two-and-a-half years in prison, a verdict upheld on appeal in June.
But they were pardoned by a presidential decree signed on Wednesday by President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who was elected in May.
Iwacu’s founder and head Antoine Kubarahe said their release was “a great relief”.
“These four colleagues, I repeat, were guilty of nothing, they were doing their job,” he told AFP.
“I am happy they will be reunited with their families on Christmas Eve,” he added, thanking the “great outpouring of support in Burundi and around the world” for their cause.
“May their freedom open a new chapter for Burundi’s media.”
The European Union’s ambassador to Burundi, Claude Bochu, tweeted that the pardon was a “relief and an excellent sign for the new year!”