AFP and RFI file lawsuit after correspondent beaten in Burundi

Journalist Esdras Ndikumana began working as Bujumbura correspondent for AFP in 2001 and for RFI in 2002 (AFP Photo/Miguel Medina) (AFP/File)

Paris (AFP) - Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Radio France International (RFI) on Monday filed a complaint after their correspondent in Burundi was held and badly beaten after being arrested by security forces in August.

Burundian journalist Esdras Ndikumana, 54, was taking pictures at the scene where a top general was assassinated in the capital Bujumbura on August 2 when he was detained by members of the National Intelligence Service (SNR).

He was held for around two hours, during which he was subjected to severe beatings on his back, legs and the soles of his feet. He was hospitalised following the ordeal.

"One of those who was torturing me wanted to take my wedding ring," Ndikumana told AFP-TV in an interview on Monday.

"I protested a bit. Someone grabbed my hand, they hit me with a steel bar, which broke my finger, and they took the ring."

AFP and RFI sent a protest letter to Burundi's government strongly condemning the attack.

In August, Burundi's presidency denounced the assault and said President Pierre Nkurunziza had "personally instructed" the SNR's chief to investigate. No official has been punished so far.

In a joint statement on Monday, AFP and RFI said they had been driven to lodge the complaint at the Supreme Court of Justice due to the continued "silence of Burundi's authorities". The suit is filed against Persons Unknown.

"Only the prosecution and conviction of the perpetrators of the assault can bring Esdras Ndikumana -- who, more than two months after his attack, continues to receive treatment abroad -- the minimum of assurance that he can return to his country and practise his profession without fear for his physical safety," the two organisations said.

Burundi was plunged into political crisis at the end of April when Nkurunziza announced he was running for a controversial third term, which the opposition said violated the constitution as well as the peace deal that ended the central African country's civil war in 2006.

The unrest rocking the country has intensified since his re-election in July, with political assassinations on both sides, attacks against the police and summary executions.

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