Eleven secondary school pupils have been arrested in Burundi for scribbling on photos of President Pierre Nkurunziza.
The teenagers, aged 14 to 19, were charged with insulting the head of state, a crime punishable by imprisonment of between six months to five years, plus up to 50 francs (£22) in fines, the governor of Muramvya province said.
“Justice must prevail,” Emmanuel Niyungeko said. “After God came the king. Today we have no kings; it is the president who replaced them. So he is in the second position of honour after God. These children made a serious offence. We will keep consulting judicial authorities and parents to find a solution.”
In a separate incident last month, more than 300 students aged 14 to 16 were sent home from their school in the town of Ruziba after staff found a picture of the president had also been defaced in textbooks. In some pictures the eyes had been gouged out, while insults against the president were scrawled over others.
After the incident, other students from those schools had protested in the streets against the arrests, and two of them had been injured by gunfire.UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulieracon reported that, more than 300 children have been in arbitrary detention in Burundi since the beginning of the crisis in April 2015, with most of them being detained in prisons for adults, in deplorable conditions.
UNICEF and its partners had been continuously appealing for the release of those children, and more than 134 children have already been released to their families. Others have been moved to centres specifically dedicated to children, the spokesperson said.