Burundi prosecution demand life for coup accused

Former Burundian defence minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye is among four ex-generals sentenced to life in prison for a failed coup (AFP Photo/) (AFP/File)

Nairobi (AFP) - Prosecution lawyers in Burundi demanded on Wednesday that 28 men on trial for launching a failed coup be jailed for life.

Top government prosecutor Adolphe Manirakiza demanded "a sentence of life imprisonment for all the defendants" in closing arguments at the trial.

Former Burundi defence minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye, the second in command, as well as two other army generals and two police commissioners have admitted taking part in the failed May 2015 coup bid.

They have cited the violent repression of anti-government protests to justify their attempted takeover of power.

But Ndayirukiye also said he had not been given proper access to lawyers.

"I never received a fair trial, because I have not been entitled to legal assistance by lawyers," Ndayirukiye said.

Zenon Ndabaneze, a police general also on trial, said he took part in the coup to "defend the constitution and the peace agreement" of Arusha, which paved the way to end more than a decade of civil war in 2006.

The small central African country descended into bloodshed in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term in a July election that he went on to win.

Coup leader General Godefroid Niyombare is currently on the run.

Months of street protests in Burundi have devolved into regular armed attacks with gunfire disrupting the nights and dead bodies appearing on city streets almost every day.

Attacks targeting the security forces have escalated, with rebels armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars attacking police convoys and targeting government installations.