Three Burundi schoolgirls who were arrested for doodling on the President Nkurunziza’s photos have been set free. The minors who were arrested last week were accused of insulting the president of the state and were put on remand while they awaited trial.
Human Rights Watch had said the case was “quickly becoming the benchmark for a crackdown of freedom of expression since 2015, ” and that it would add pressure on the government of Burundi to release the girl as with the 2016 case where the girls were released following pressure from the international community.
According to Human Rights Watch Central Africa Director, Lewis Mudge the minors were freed from Ngozi Central Prison two days after Justice Minister Aimée Laurentine Kanyana told state broadcaster that their provisional release had been approved.
The schoolgirls’ detention for doodling over the presidents in their school textbooks led to international condemnation of the Burundian government, with critics showing their support for the girls on social media with crudely drawn images of Nkurunziza and the hashtag #FreeOurGirls.
Activists on Twitter felt that President Nkurunzinza was acting out on his frustration and that doodling is something everyone did back in school, so the minors are being criminalized on zero grounds.
President Nkurunziza, who has been in office since 2005 and was re-elected to a third term in 2015 despite massive protests and concerns over the legality of running beyond his second term, Since 2015, the authorities, crackdown on all forms of expression has been very brutal.
A similar incident was reported in 2016, when Burundi’s National Service Intelligence nabbed eight secondary school students for allegedly insulting Nkurunziza by writing phrases like “Get out” or “No to the 3rd term” on a picture of the President in a textbook, according to Human Rights Watch while hundreds of others were expelled from several schools over the same.