Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who has been under virtual house arrest since a presidential election in February, was charged with treason after being whisked out of the capital, his lawyers said. Besigye disputed veteran President Yoweri Museveni’s victory in the election. Since polling day, his house has been ringed by police, spiked barriers placed on the road to it and visitors vetted.
The government insists Museveni’s victory was valid and says Besigye is trying to hold illegal protests. He was arrested in the capital Kampala on Wednesday after staging a ceremony at which he was mock sworn-in as president and taken to Moroto, a town about 400km away. The “swearing-in” was filmed and racked up tens of thousands of views on YouTube.
“We have been informed by police today that Besigye appeared in court in Moroto and was charged with treason,” lawyer Erias Lukwago told the AFP newswire. Lukwago said his client was denied legal representation when charged with treason on Friday, and was remanded in custody until another court appearance that was set for May 25. “It’s absurd because none of us was there to represent him,” he said. Treason is a capital offence in Uganda but the death penalty has not been carried out for years. Besigye was previously charged with treason in 2005 but that case was later dropped.
Police spokesman Fred Enanga confirmed the latest case against Besigye but did not give details of the charges. A long-standing opponent of Museveni, Besigye has been frequently jailed, put under house arrest, accused of both treason and rape, tear-gassed, beaten and hospitalised over the years.