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Exiled Burundi judge says court forced to back president

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — The Burundian Constitutional Court was forced to validate President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to seek a third term in office, an exiled judge said as three people were killed in protests Thursday over the president’s candidacy.

Protests have rocked Burundi’s capital since the ruling party announced April 25 that it had nominated Nkurunziza as its presidential candidate. Three people were killed and 13 wounded during protests, according to the Burundi Red Cross.

Judges met April 30 and found that Nkurunziza wasn’t eligible to run for another term, said Constitutional Court Vice President Sylvere Nimpagaritse, who is in exile in Rwanda. He said after that decision, the judges started receiving threatening phone calls, which forced him to flee. The remaining judges then changed their decision in Nkurunziza’s favor.

“If we did not give the third term a green light, we were going to be in trouble,” Nimpagaritse said.

There was no immediate response from the Burundian government to the judge’s claims.

Nkurunziza has said the court had found that his bid for a third term in the June 26 election doesn’t contradict the constitution since he was selected by parliament and not by popular election for his first term. Protesters say his re-election bid is illegal.

Thursday’s deaths bring the number of people killed in the protests to at least 13 and 216 wounded since April 25. More than 30,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries, fearing political violence

Protesters searched for and assaulted people suspected to be members of the ruling party’s violent youth group on Thursday.

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