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Belgium frees Burundi opposition leader

07 May 2014, 14:47

Brussels - Belgian authorities have released a prominent Burundian opposition leader who had been detained at the airport last week while he was on route to Italy.

Alexis Sinduhije, a former journalist, activist and leader of the Movement for Solidarity and Development (MSD), was allowed to leave the airport detention centre on Tuesday following a Belgian court decision to suspend his arrest.

Sinduhije, one of the most outspoken opponents of Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, had been detained on Thursday after flying in from Chad.

"My client was truly happy with the outcome," said Sinduhije's lawyer Bernard Maingain, describing his client's detention as the result of an "excess of zeal" on the part of a Belgian official.

Life in prison

Sinjuhije had already been questioned on his arrival in Brussels on Thursday and was found to be holding a valid French visa, Maingain said.

Sinduhije is wanted in Burundi in connection with a protest in March which turned violent and led to the arrest of dozens of opposition members.

He has been on the run from police since the clashes and faces life in prison if caught.

Pancrace Cimpaye, an MSD spokesperson in Burundi, described the release as a "great victory for Alexis Sinduhije and the Burundian opposition".

"Sinduhije left the airport at around 22:30 last night to spend the night in downtown Brussels. He will now continue his European tour and he is now free to move."

Last month the government of Burundi angrily rejected accusations that it was arming young supporters of the ruling party with a view to crushing opposition groups.



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