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Burundi opposition chief gets bail

21 March 2014, 09:34

Bujumbura - A Burundi court bailed on Thursday a key opposition leader arrested in a sex and bribery scandal his supporters claim was a set-up designed to block a challenge to the president.

Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, a former Burundi vice-president and current deputy leader of the Front for Democracy (Frodebu) party was arrested in December "while having sex... in a house of ill repute", a court official said.

A bail order was initially made in December, but was then rejected at the request of the prosecution.

However, on Thursday, bail was granted on health grounds and Bamvuginyumvira released, court officials said, so he could seek treatment for high blood pressure.

"The anti-corruption court has just made an order for the provisional release my client Frederic Bamvuginyumvira on a bail of a million Burundian francs or €450," his lawyer Fabien Segatwa said.

"Mr Bamvuginyumvira has no reason to be in prison because he did not do anything," he added, maintaining his incarceration was political.

Bamvuginyumvira, a highly respected leader with a reputation for being tough on graft, was Burundi's vice president from 1998 to 2001, and is touted as one of the most serious potential opposition presidential candidates for 2015 elections.

The court decision comes amid growing tensions in the central African country, especially between Burundi's Hutu and Tutsi communities, who are still struggling to reconcile after decades of conflict.

The United Nations has called for restraint and dialogue ahead of the polls, in which President Pierre Nkurunziza is expected to campaign for a third term in office.

Frodebu won the 1993 general elections, bringing to power the country's first elected president Melchior Ndadaye.

Ndadaye was assassinated a few months later, triggering a brutal civil war that ended in 2006.

Like other opposition groups Frodebu boycotted legislative elections in 2010.



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