Three school girls aged 15, 16 and 17 from Burundi who were detained for doodling on President Pierre Nkurunziza’s pictures on textbooks have been provisionally released.
This comes after the government bowed to pressure from social media campaign by Burundians under a hashtag# freeOurGirls.
The girls lawyer, Nyanzira Prosper told the BBC they have been freed on bail until they appear in court. Their charges still stand and prosecutors will continue to investigate them.
Burundi’s Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine Kanyana told the BBC that the girls had been detained for allegedly “insulting” the head of state and would face up to five years in jail if they were convicted.
Speaking from the state broadcaster RTNB, she addressed the parents telling them to strengthen the education of their children.
“We should remind our children that they have to respect authorities, that the age of criminal responsibility is 15,” said Aimee.
According to Human Rights Watch this was not the first time school children were jailed for similar offences.
Back in 2006, agents of the National Intelligence Service of Burundi arrested eight secondary students for allegedly insulting Nzurunziza by writing phrases such as ‘Get out’ or ‘No to the 3rd term’ on a picture of him in a text book.
In addition to that,hundreds of students were expelled from schools for scribbling on the president’s face on the text books in the same year.
President Nzurunziza has been in office since 2005 and was re-elected to a third term in 2015 despite massive protests and concerns over legality of running beyond his second term.