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Freed Ugandan Opposition Politician Hits Campaign Trail


Ugandan opposition politician Kizza Besigye hit the campaign trail Tuesday following his release from prison on bail. There are lingering fears that he might be re-arrested.

Dr. Besigye addressed reporters in the Ugandan capital Kampala before attending a campaign rally outside the capital.

The presidential candidate said the charges of rape and treason he faces before High Court, and charges of terrorism and illegal possession of firearms he faces in military court, are politically motivated and are false allegations.

Defense lawyer Sam Njuba tells VOA Dr. Besigye's focus is on the February 23 elections.

"He has said this morning on the radio that he has forgiven everybody," said Mr. Njuba. "All he wants is to fight the political battle, notwithstanding the fact that many of his people are in jail including his own young brother and many of his supporters."

Dr. Besigye, who leads the political party Forum for Democratic Change, was arrested last November shortly after his return to Uganda from four years in exile, and was subsequently charged in the two courts.

The High Court had earlier granted bail to the opposition politician, but the military court continued to detain him.

On Monday, the High Court ruled that the detention order issued by the military court was illegal, and ordered Dr. Besigye released on bail.

Defense lawyer Njuba tells VOA many of Dr. Besigye's supporters are still uneasy about the situation, fearing that he may be re-arrested.

Dr. Besigye's rape trial, which opened Monday, is scheduled to resume Wednesday. On Friday, a date is expected to be set for the trial in which he and 22 coaccused are facing treason charges.

Meanwhile, Uganda's Constitutional Court has not yet ruled on whether Dr. Besigye's court martial should proceed.

Defense lawyers argue that it is illegal for a civilian such as Dr. Besigye to be tried by a military court, and that he should not face trials in two separate courts to answer essentially the same charges.

Ugandan authorities say that civilians can face military court if they are accused of illegally possessing firearms or are charged with terrorism, and that the charges lodged against Dr. Besigye are sufficiently different to merit trials in two separate courts.

The opposition politician was once President Yoweri Museveni's personal physician and is seen to be a serious contender against the president.

Mr. Museveni and his government have come under fire internationally for Dr. Besigye's detention. Sweden, Britain, Norway, Ireland, and The Netherlands have withheld part of their funding because of concerns about democracy.

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