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Burundi ex-leader rejects life sentence for murder

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Burundi’s former President Pierre Buyoya has rejected a life sentence he received in absentia this week over the 1993 assassination of his successor, dismissing the case as a “sham”.

“We reject these judgments, which are in no way binding on us,” Buyoya, who is currently the African union’s representative in Mali, said on Wednesday in a statement.

Burundi’s top court sentenced Buyoya to life imprisonment on Tuesday for “an attack against the head of state” over his role in the death of President Melchior Ndadaye in 1993.

Buyoya, an ethnic Tutsi, first came to power in Burundi in a coup in 1987, but stepped down after losing an election to Ndadaye.

Ndadaye, an ethnic Hutu, then became the East African country’s first democratically elected president in 1993. But he was killed just four months into the job by hardline ethnic Tutsi soldiers.

His murder plunged the nation into years of civil war between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis.

A section of the court ruling seen by AFP news agency does not give details on the evidence against Buyoya, or his alleged role in the killing.

In his statement, Buyoya dismissed the case against him and 18 other officials who received the same sentence.

“This case is a purely political trial,” he said, suggesting Burundi’s current government was exploiting it for electoral ends.

He added defence lawyers had been blocked from accessing case files and said the trial violated the 2000 Arusha peace accord that helped end Burundi’s civil war.

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