Burundi General Cyrille Ndayirukiye
Burundi's former Defense Minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye points to a direction during a attempted coup in the capital Bujumbura, on 13 May 2015 Reuters

A lawyer representing two of the people accused of plotting a coup in Burundi claims the authorities are unlawfully detaining them for fear of a second putsch, amid rumours the opposition are planning an armed rebellion.

The statutory maximum detention period is 15 days in Burundi, but lawyer Lambert Nsabimana claims the plotters have been detained for more than a month since their arrests on 15 and 25 May, respectively. His clients stand accused of attempting to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza on 13 May.

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 battle between forces loyal to Nkurunziza and supporters of the coup, the insurgents surrendered and Burundian forces arrested the leader of the failed coup on Friday 15 May.

The coup plotters' trial was supposed to start on Tuesday 9 June with a preliminary hearing in which a judge which should have decided whether the prisoners should be released on bail.

'Unlawful' detention

"We deplore that the time limits for detention before being presented before a judge have been exceeded, and we have had no response from the justice minister," Nsabimana told IBTimes UK on 23 June.

burundi coup attempt
Policemen escort the detained General Juvenal Niyungeko to a high court in Bujumbura Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

"Deputy coup leader Général-Major Cyrille Ndayirukiye [a former defence minister] was arrested on 15 May and others were arrested on 25 May, but for my two clients, the time limits have been exceeded," Nsabimana added.

"It is against the law, but unfortunately, this affair is now handled more politically than juridically."

The men have been detained at Gitega prison.

Detained because of new coup rumours

According to the lawyer, the delay may be due to the upcoming elections. While they have already been postponed, the legislative elections will be held on 29 June, while the presidential elections are anticipated for 15 July.

"We are approaching elections and because there is a lot of tension and rumours of another coup and a rebellion, I think that's why they keep on detaining my clients," Nsabimana said.

"The elections are always postponed. But if they maintain the elections for 29 June, I am 100% sure that before that date they will not do anything for my clients."

We are approaching elections and because there is a lot of tension and rumours of another coup and a rebellion, I think that's why they keep on detaining my clients
- Lambert Nsabimana, lawyer

The lawyer says he has made a claim to the President of the Supreme Court and the office of Attorney-General of the Republic – the appropriate authorities to handle with the matter.

"I know they both received the claim because the clerks always put a stamp on it when they receive it, but I am yet to receive an answer," Nsabimana added.

The lawyer says he has also called on the National Commission for Human Rights and organisations such as Action by Christians Against Torture (ACAT).

This comes two weeks after Nsabimana told IBTimes UK he believed the authorities were using escape rumours to restrict the liberties of the army officials.

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

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