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Ugandan opposition figure returned to prison in capital after treason charge: lawyer


By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA  – Ugandan opposition figure Kizza Besigye, who had been taken to a court in the country’s remote northeast to face a charge of treason, was on Monday transferred back to a prison in the capital Kampala, his lawyer said.

Besigye lost to veteran leader Yoweri Museveni in Uganda’s Feb. 18 presidential election. He was charged with treason late on Friday for unlawfully declaring himself the winner of the poll and being sworn in as president in a mock ceremony, the charge sheet seen by Reuters on Monday showed.

Besigye has rejected the poll’s results, alleging widespread vote rigging, a biased electoral commission, intimidation by security services and other irregularities which he said made the election a sham.

The election was also widely criticised by independent monitors including those from the European Union who said it was carried out in an intimidating atmosphere orchestrated by state actors.

Since the election, sporadic clashes have occurred between security forces and opposition supporters seeking to protest what they say is Museveni’s fraudulent victory.

Besigye’s lawyer, Moses Byamugisha told Reuters Besigye had been transferred to Luzira prison in Kampala, Uganda’s only maximum security prison located on the shores of Lake Victoria.

“Next will be to apply for bail….by Thursday we should have made an application for bail to the high court,” Byamugisha said.

A day before Museveni took the presidential oath last week, Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party said they had sworn Besigye in as Uganda’s president.

A video appearing to show the ceremony was widely circulated on social media.

The retired army colonel and physician was arrested on Wednesday as he addressed a rally in downtown Kampala and flown to a prison in the remote and isolated Karamoja region, near the border with Kenya.

Critics quickly likened the region to South Africa’s Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was once incarcerated.

Byamugisha said the treason charges were “laughable” and that “the intention of government is not to win this case in court but to just get Besigye out of circulation.”

Police on Monday said they had also summoned some FDC officials who appeared in Besigye’s apparent mock swearing-in video for questioning on why they allegedly participated in an unlawful activity.

Museveni, 71, is credited with restoring order to the east African country after years of chaos but critics accuse him of growing increasingly authoritarian, clamping down on dissent and failing to tackle corruption. (Reuters)

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