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Burundi court okays President’s third-term bid, judges flee

Burundi’s constitutional court says it has approved President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term.

The statement came on Tuesday as dozens of protesters marched in the capital Bujumbura to say they would “never accept” a campaign they call illegal.

Police also fired tear gas at protesters as they approached the US embassy.

Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would stand in a June 26 vote has plunged Burundi into its worst political crisis since its ethnically fuelled civil war ended a decade ago.

“The renewal of the presidential term through direct universal suffrage for five years is not against the constitution of Burundi,” a constitutional court statement said.

Agathon Rwasa, a leading opposition, told Al Jazeera that the ruling was a “coup”.

“Their decision is nothing but a coup against the Arusha accord, and the current constitution,” Rwasa told Al Jazeera, referring to a peace agreement that ended ethnic conflict in nearby Rwanda.

“It is a clear message to the people that they count for nothing, and that only Nkurunziza and his friends count in this nation.”

But there is widespread opposition against the ruling as at least, four of the seven constitution court judges had fled the country.

“We don’t care about the constitutional court’s decision because we know this court is manipulated,” Jean Minani, leader of Frodebu-Nyakuri party, part of one coalition behind the protests, told AFP.

He said rallies would not stop until the president backed down.

Judge Sylvere Nimpagaritse, the constitutional court’s vice president, fled to Rwanda on Monday.

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