A court in Burundi jailed four ex-generals to life in prison Friday for a failed coup, with nine others jailed for 30 years for their role in the unrest.
Bujumbura descended into bloodshed in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term, sparking the failed coup in May.
Coup leader, ex-general Godefroid Nyombare, is on the run, but those sentenced at the Supreme Court Friday included four key deputies.
Among them are three ex-army generals — former defence minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye, Zenon Ndabaneze and Juvenal Niyungeko — and one police general, Hermenegilde Nimenya.
The court, which described them as the “coup organisers”, said they were found guilty of the three counts of launching an attempted coup, killing soldiers, policemen and civilians, and the malicious destruction of buildings.
Nine officers, from both the army and police, were sentenced to 30 years in prison for “having cooperated” with the coup leaders.
The court also banned them from holding public office for 10 years.
Eight soldiers, including drivers and bodyguards of the jailed generals, were sentenced to five years for their roles.
However, seven others were acquitted, including general Prime Ngowenubusa.
Prosecutors had demanded life sentences for all 28 on trial.
During the trial, leaders cited the violent repression of anti-government protests to justify their attempted takeover of power.
They also said they had not been given proper access to lawyers.
All were present at the reading of the verdict in the court, held under high security in Gitega, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of the capital Bujumbura.
Ndabaneze 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.
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.
On Friday, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein voiced alarm at the spiralling violence in Burundi over “extremely disturbing” allegations of security forces gang raping women, ethnic killings and mass graves.