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Besigye Treason Hearing Erupts in Anger After No-Show


A number of top FDC leaders were in attendance at the courthouse. (L. Paulat/VOA)

A number of top FDC leaders were in attendance at the courthouse. (L. Paulat/VOA)

Tensions have escalated in Uganda's capital after a court appearance for opposition leader Kizza Besigye was canceled and two opposition leaders were arrested. Besigye is charged with treason after calling February's presidential poll rigged and declaring himself president.

When it became clear that Besigye wouldn't attend Wednesday's hearing, the packed courtroom erupted in anger.

The government cited security concerns for Besigye's absence, saying that they couldn't risk bringing him to court.

Although the chief magistrate called for calm, Besigye's supporters continued to demonstrate, eventually shutting down the session. They remained in the courtroom demonstrating their dissatisfaction by holding prayers and singing that one day President Yoweri Museveni would die and they would be free.

Crowds of Besigye supporters, kept off the road by heavy security, try to catch a glimpse into the court. (L. Paulat/VOA)

Crowds of Besigye supporters, kept off the road by heavy security, try to catch a glimpse into the court. (L. Paulat/VOA)

The demonstration remained calm with no police intervention. One activist with Besigye's FDC party, John Mugabe, says they just wanted to be heard.

“We are not here to cause disruption; because, as Ugandans, we are here also to defend our vote, which was rigged; however, as much as the police and the state are trying to push us to that side, to cause violence, but we know Museveni is good at violence," said Mugabe. "And we are going to demonstrate in a free and fair way according to the constitution; but, violence is not our weapon to use at this side."

After leaving the courtroom, a group of activists marched to the main road. Police called on them to disperse, asking them to stop singing and chanting. When they continued, two FDC members, Ingrid Turinawe and Doreen Nyanjura, were arrested.

Besigye supporters make their way down to the main road. Arrests followed not long after. (L. Paulat/VOA)

Besigye supporters make their way down to the main road. Arrests followed not long after. (L. Paulat/VOA)

Member of parliament Betty Nambooze, who was in the courtroom to support Besigye, says she has concerns about the future.

“We're so sad that as a country we are heading for a situation where the law of the jungle, going by might and not right, it's quite, quite very bad that we are heading for such a very bad period," said Nambooze. "And at the moment, have nothing to do apart from keep guessing the next move President Museveni will be taking.”

The opposition is calling for an independent audit of the February presidential election, which President Museveni officially won with 60 percent of the vote.

Besigye's next court appearance is scheduled for mid-June.

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