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Top Burundian lawyer who criticised 'drift to dictatorship' sacked


Burundi's top lawyer has been sacked after criticising the government and being accused of urging the people to rebel, officials said Wednesday, as political tensions mount in the small central African nation.

The Court of Appeal in the capital Bujumbura decided Tuesday to sack Isidore Rufyikiri as president of the Bar Association, spokeswoman of the prosecutor Alice Bangiricenge said.

By becoming a lawyer he had "sworn not to say anything or post anything against the morals and security of the state," she said. But he had "violated this oath."

Rufyikiri, who has won support of lawyers in France and Belgium, condemned what he said was a move to silence him.

"I dared to denounce what others did not dare to say: the drift towards the establishment of a dictatorial regime in Burundi and the establishment of a militia like the Interahamwe of Rwanda," he said, referring to the extremist Hutu militia who carried out the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda in 1994, alongside the army.

However, Bangiricenge said there had been no political motive.

The prosecution accused the lawyer of writing a letter to government officials that was "defamatory and injurious to the government... and which had no other goal than to sow ethnic hatred and violence."

He was also accused of having urged the "army, students, government officials and even the population to revolt and overthrow the government."

Burundi's history is marred by bitter ethnic killings and civil war.

Tensions remain high, with rebel gunmen launching a series of attacks since the 2010 boycott of general elections by Burundi's opposition.

President Pierre Nkurunziza is expected to campaign for a third term in office in elections due next year.