Over 230 teenagers have been suspended from school in Burundi after no one owned up to defacing a picture of the president in the troubled central African country, government officials said Tuesday.
"We have decided to temporarily expel some 230 students... because they refused to denounce those among them who defaced a photograph of his Excellency the President of the Republic," said local government official Aloys Ngenzirabona, from the eastern Gisuru district.
Teachers ordered students to write down the culprits but they refused.
"We gave them the paper on which they write the names of officials, but they gave us blank sheets," Ngenzirabona said.
Sources in the education ministry told AFP that as many as a dozen schools have reported similar cases of defacing the president's portrait. In some of the pictures the eyes had been gouged out, while insults against the president were scrawled over others.
Burundi plunged into crisis in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he was running for a third term, a vote he won last July amid opposition boycotts.
Earlier this month 11 students were arrested in the central Muramvya district for insulting Nkurunziza by damaging his portrait and are awaiting trial.
In another case, 300 students from a school in Ruziba, south of the capital Bujumbura, were suspended in early June for the same reason. They have since been allowed back, but police are investigating the case.
Violence has left more than 500 people dead and forced more than 270,000 to flee the small central African country, according to the United Nations.