Burundi: Ex-defense minister, generals charged over coup try

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BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — A former Burundian defense minister was charged Monday along with 27 ex-security officials for their alleged involvement in a May coup attempt to oust President Pierre Nkurunziza while he was seeking a third term in office.

Former Defense Minister Gen. Cyrille Ndayirukiye led the suspects, including five generals, in petitioning the Burundi's Supreme Court, sitting in the central town of Gitega, to improve the conditions of their detention before trial continues.

Ndayirukiye said he and the others must use a bucket as a toilet and are being held in isolation. The court ordered prison authorities to improve the conditions of the suspects' detention. The trial will continue Tuesday, the court announced.

Burundi has been in turmoil since the April announcement that President Pierre Nkurunziza would seek a third term in office. Nkurunziza won elections in July but violence has since escalated.

At least 87 people, including eight security men, died Friday when an unidentified group of more than 150 people attacked three military facilities. Military spokesman Col. Gaspard Baratuza said the group was trying to get weapons to free prisoners. Hundreds of Burundians have been imprisoned for opposing Nkurunziza's extension of his rule.

Rights groups say Friday's incident was the worst case of violence in Burundi since the crisis over presidential term limits began with street protests that boiled over into the attempted military coup in May.

More than 300 people have been killed and about 215,000 others have fled Burundi since April.

Many Burundians and the international community have opposed Nkurunziza's third term as unconstitutional and in violation of a peace accord. The treaty ended a civil war in which 300,000 people were killed between 1993 and 2006. The U.S. government on Sunday asked its citizens to leave Burundi as soon as possible. Belgium, Burundi's former colonial master, asked its citizens to leave the central African nation last month.

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