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Jailed Ugandan Opposition Leader Writes to Chief Justice

  • James Butty

FILE - Opposition leader Kizza Besigye speaks during a news conference at his home at the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 21, 2016.

FILE - Opposition leader Kizza Besigye speaks during a news conference at his home at the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 21, 2016.

In Uganda, the former presidential candidate of the Forum for Democratic Change, Kizza Besigye, has written to the country’s Chief Justice to complain about what he calls his mistreatment.

Besigye, who has claimed he won the February 18th presidential election, was charged with treason after a video surfaced showing he had been sworn in by his party as president of Uganda.

In the letter, Besigye recounted his treatment by the government and the legal system over the years, beginning with his participation in the 2001 presidential election.

He said he has been repeatedly demonized and ostracized for legitimately seeking the presidency.

Besigye: Independence of the judiciary is an issue

Besigye told the Chief Justice in his letter that the independence of the Uganda judiciary was increasingly being questioned and that it was incumbent on the Chief Justice to ensure proper administration of justice in the country.

Besigye’s sister, Olive Kobusingye, visited him last Friday at Luzira prison. She said Besigye wants Chief Justice Bart Katureebe to take a stand because evil triumphs when good people do nothing.

“The main purpose of the letter was to bring to the attention of the Chief Justice the various complaints that he has related to how he’s being arrested, not just on this current imprisonment but over the last so many years and the various abuses that he suffered under both the Ugandan police but also the judiciary that was supposed to be defending his rights, but up until now does not seem to do so," she said.

Besigye calls most recent arrest ‘violent’

In the letter, Besigye outlined what he said was his most recent mistreatment, including his “violent arrest” on May 11 by Ugandan police and how he was arraigned before a magistrate and charged with treason.

On May 18, Besigye said he was taken to Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court where fresh charges of treason were again read to him.

“Once more, I did not have legal representation and even when I tried to raise my concerns at that time, the presiding magistrate refused to listen to the concerns I wished to address him on and advised that these should be raised with the prison authorities or the High Court,” Besigye said.

Kobusingye echoes one of Besigye’s concerns raised in his letter that it was becoming increasingly apparent that he might be tried in secret in Luzira prison.

“This is not speculation. A couple of weeks ago he was supposed to be brought to court for the hearing of his case. He wasn’t brought to court, and the prosecution said because they had serious security concerns. And then they [the state] actually made an application to the magistrate to say can the case not now be held in that court but rather be held in Luzira, in the prison,” Kobusingye said.

Kobusingye said her brother wants the Chief Justice to step up and do something about the injustice in the Ugandan judicial system.

In another development, Besigye, although not a lawyer by profession, has chosen to represent himself before the High Court.

“I think it is not so much whether he has the capabilities of a lawyer as the fact that he initially wasn’t allowed the opportunity wasn’t allowed to hire a team of lawyers, and then I think as events evolved it became obvious that this wasn’t going to be a legal process and that the government was going through the motions to make it seem as though there was some legal process underway. So I think he just decided to take it in the same manner and said well, if there isn’t going to be a fair legal process, then he’s going to represent himself,” Kobusingye said.

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