Uganda: Defining Week for Besigye in Court

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye will on July 11 know whether he can regain his freedom after nearly two months in custody.

His bail application in which he seeks freedom from custody after he was arrested on May 11 following the release of a video on social media in which he allegedly took oath as the "President of the People" ahead of President Yoweri Museveni's swearing-in the following day.

Dr Besigye lost to President Museveni in the elections held on February 18 but he disputed the results, claiming he had actually won but was rigged out.

Following the release of the video, Dr Besigye beat a 24 hour police siege at his house in Kasangati and appeared in down town in Kampala in what some of his supporters unofficially claimed was supposed to be the public ceremony of his inauguration.

His supporters had asked for police permission to hold a rally at the Nakivubo War Memorial stadium on the same day as the official presidential swearing. The permission was denied.

Instead, Dr Besigye was arrested and whisked away to the remote district of Moroto in the Karamoja sub region where he was detained until after the swearing in ceremony in Kampala. He was later produced in in court where charges of treason were read to him.

Days later, Besigye was transferred back to Kampala, detained at Luzira before being produced before the Chief Magistrate at Nakawa who read to him treason charges before remanding him.

The decision on whether Dr Besigye gets bail or not rests with High Court judge Wilson Masalu Musene, a former Constituent Assembly delegate representing Manjiya County in the making of Uganda's 1995 Constitution. The 1995 Constitution eased the process of granting bail to suspects.

Ladislous Rwakafuzi, a human rights lawyer in Kampala said that history will likely play a big role in the judge's decision on Monday.

"As someone who was in the Constituent Assembly, he is likely to be conscious of what was discussed in the CA on the requirement for bail and the country's democratic aspirations," he said.

Lawyers David Mpanga and Earnest Kalibala, representing Dr Besigye will plead his advanced age, at 60, prosecution's slow progress on investigations and apparent lack of readiness to proceed with the trial, what Besigye interprets as mistreatment from the time of arrest being flown to Moroto and back as well as his long stay on remand as the reasons to justify a bail, a knowledgeable source told The East African.

Kampala Lord Mayor Erias who visited Dr Besigye on Thursday last week told The EastAfrican that the opposition politician was "optimistic the application will be heard on its merit and that he will regain his freedom."

He described Besigye as strong and steadfast.

Speaking at a meeting with members of the Inter-party Dialogue (IPOD) recently, President Museveni said he had no problem negotiating with the opposition but not with elements who have "other issues" referring to tendencies to subversion and extra-legal and extra-political means to gain power. He mentioned Dr Besigye and dissident army general David Sejusa.

President Museveni also mentioned the case of Dr Besigye's close associate and senior member of the FDC party, Michael Kabaziguruka, an MP for the Nakawa constituency who has been charged with treason in the military court.

But some of the "release Dr Besigye" pressure has been coming from quarters Kampala often finds itself obligated, albeit uncomfortably to listen to.

Source: The East African

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