KAMPALA – A Ugandan judge granted bail on Monday to 12 opposition politicians, including popular songwriter Robert Kyagulanyi, who have been charged with treason over their alleged role in the stoning of President Yoweri Museveni’s convoy this month.
Kyagulanyi, who only entered parliament last year, has been left unable to stand after being beaten while in detention, his lawyer told Reuters last week, citing relatives who visited him. The Ugandan government says the assault accusation is “rubbish”.
The detention of Kyagulanyi and other politicians critical of Museveni sparked two days of anti-government demonstrations in the capital Kampala and other parts of Uganda last week.
The 12 deny the charges against them. Dozens of other people have also been charged with treason over their alleged role in the convoy stoning.
“The 12 applicants have been granted bail. I will set further conditions on their bail later,” High Court Judge Stephen Mubiru said at a televised court hearing.
Bail was set for each applicant at 5 million Ugandan shillings ($1,340), payable if they fail to show up again in court. The state prosecutor did not challenge the granting of bail.
Kyagulanyi, a popular musician, has composed songs whose biting criticism of Museveni’s government have won him a large youth following.
Judge Mubiru ordered the 12 accused to reappear in a lower court on August 30, but also rejected a request from the prosecutor to confiscate their passports.
During the court session, Shaban Atiku, one of the accused, fainted.
Kizza Besigye, an opposition leader, who was in court, joined in to resuscitate him.
“This morning as we were in court, two actually collapsed and I was involved in trying to resuscitate one of them, Mr. Atiku Shaban, who was in a very weak condition, is in extreme pain,” Besigye, who is a medical doctor and a former personal physician of Museveni, told private-owned NTV Uganda.
Protesters and opposition supporters accuse Museveni, in power since 1986, of stifling dissent through intimidation, beatings and detentions, charges which his government denies.
Last October, when parliament was debating whether to remove a constitutional age limit that would have barred Museveni – now aged 74 – from seeking re-election in 2021, security forces and protesters clashed on the streets and two protesters died.
The presidential age limit has since been removed.
($1 = 3,731.2600 Ugandan shillings)(Reuters)