Burundi coup plotters trial
Burundian police officers patrol as military leaders accused of planning a failed coup arrive at the Court of Appeal in Gitega Jean Pierre Aime Harerimana/Reuters

Burundi's Public prosecution has required life imprisonment for 28 people on trial for allegedly plotting to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza in May 2015. Following weeks of protests sparked by Nkurunziza's decision to prolong his rule by a third term, the Burundian army led by General Godefroid Niyombare announced a coup on 13 May, but the coup leaders failed to secure outright support from the rest of military.

After hours of pitched battles between forces loyal to Nkurunziza and supporters of the coup, the insurgents surrendered and Burundian forces arrested a leader of the failed coup on Friday 15 May.

A source close to high-ranking military officials told IBTimes UK that Niyombare, the main coup leader, was still on the run and was now in hiding "outside of Burundi".

Millions demanded in compensation

The trial for dozens of coup plotters, including a former defence minister, Cyrille Ndayirukiye, and 27 other senior military and police officials, was supposed to start on 9 June 2015 with a preliminary hearing in which a judge should have decided whether the prisoners should be released on bail.

However, the 28, who are also accused of inciting killings and destroying property during the anti third-term protests, only appeared on 14 December 2015 at the supreme court in the central town of Gitega, where they have been detained at the central prison.

The hearing resumed on Wednesday (6 January) with the intervention of the civil parties who requested compensation as the prosecution stated its indictment.

Speaking on behalf of the National Defence Force (FDN), a representative of the Burundian army established a compensation up to FBU 793m (around £345,880) for weapons and ammunition lost on 13 and 14 May during the coup attempt. He also requested funeral expenses for the nine soldiers killed during the coup be reimbursed.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Security also required over FBU 13.5bn (£5.87m) in compensation, adding the indemnity covered a period of over two weeks from 26 April − the date of the first anti-third-term demonstration − and the 13 May. According to the Ministry, the plan to topple Nkurunziza started on the first day of the protests.

The ruling party affiliated station, Rema FM, which was burned down by protesters a day after the failed coup attempt, also asked for up to FBU 4.21bn (£1.83m) in compensation for the destruction of its equipment and buildings.

At the start of the trial, Justice Ministry spokeswoman Agnès Bangiricenge was reported as saying the detainees were "charged with an attempt to unseat the country's constitutional institutions", as well as carrying out assassinations.

Allegations of 'mistreatment' in jail

Burundi coup plotters trial
Burundian former defence minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye (C) listens to his attorneys at the Court of Appeal in Gitega REUTERS/Jean Pierre Aime Harerimana

A defence lawyer, Lambert Nsabimana, in June exclusively told IBTimes UK the authorities were using escape rumours to restrict the liberties of the army officials standing trial, describing their detention as "unlawful".

At the time, human rights activists and UN officials met the prison's director Emmanuel Niyonkuru, who Nsabimana says should have been responsible for determining the conditions of prisoners' incarceration, but the lawyer claimed that the restrictions were coming from the highest authorities.

Burundi's civil society lawyer, Belgian attorney Bernard Maingain, who was defending General Ndayirukiye with two other Burundian lawyers, has not attended the trial as he is himself being prosecuted by the Burundian justice system. Prosecutor Adolphe Manirakiza had yet to disclose what charges are held against the Belgian lawyer.

The Supreme Court and office of the attorney-general could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.