Prophet sees Virgin Mary, disciples thrown in jail

One hundred and eighty two followers of a Catholic prophet who claims to see visions of the Virgin Mary were sentenced today in a Burundian court.

The disciples of 30 year-old prophet Zebiya were sentenced up to five years in jail for defying police orders.

The prophet followers were arrested on Tuesday morning after defying a ban to gather on a hilltop that has become a place of pilgrimage.

Zebiya has reportedly seen visions on the hill on the 12th day of every month.

"Fifteen adults thought to be the leaders of the group were sentenced to five years each," Elie Ntunwanayo, Burundi Supreme Court spokesman said.

Court documents showed that 182 people had been sentenced, with jail terms varying between three years and six months.

"They were all arrested and sentenced for civil disobedience," Ntunwanayo said.

Twenty children under 14 years-old were released by the court.

The trial took just over five hours with a verdict reached at around midnight on Friday.

In March, police in the east African nation clashed with Zebiya's followers leaving at least six people dead and 35 wounded.

Violence broke out after hundreds of her followers were blocked by police as they tried to gather at her hilltop shrine.
 

- Sapa

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