A Burundi court has acquitted an employee of one of the country's most popular radio stations, who was held for seven months on charges of handing out weapons, his lawyer said Thursday.
"The court announced the acquittal of my client Faustin Ndikumana," Isidore Rufyikiri told AFP, welcoming a "courageous and independent decision by the judges, in spite of all the pressure they must have been under."
Ndikumana headed the transportation service at African Public Radio (RPA), considered close to the opposition. Several judicial sources said he would be freed on Thursday.
He was arrested in September 2010 by the secret service and accused of endangering state security and distributing weapons to destabilise the small central African country before the general elections of mid-2010.
The sole prosecution witness testified that Ndikumana had provided him with "weapons that were meant to be used to eliminate highly placed officials", but he acknowledged that nobody could back up this accusation.
"We are satisfied for our colleague, but also for RPA because this was a trumped-up case aimed at damaging the radio station because it bothers the authorities," RPA director Eric Manirakiza told journalists.
At the end of February, the state prosecutor asked that the court jail Ndikumana for 15 years, before halving this sentence in a second plea made in March.
RPA has often denounced "harassment" by the authorities when police haul in journalists and administrative staff for questioning. The station is seen as the voice of the political opposition.
The government is sensitive to criticism in Burundi, which is emerging from 13 years of civil war that left more than 300,000 people dead.© ANP/AFP