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Uganda’s Main Opposition Leader Charged With Disobeying Police Order

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Opposition leader Kizza Besigye speaks during a news conference at his home at the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 21, 2016. His lawyer says the latest charges against his client are "just harassment."

FILE - Opposition leader Kizza Besigye speaks during a news conference at his home at the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 21, 2016. His lawyer says the latest charges against his client are "just harassment."

The defense attorney for Uganda’s main opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye, says new criminal charges against his client appear to be part of a plan to discredit him following the disputed outcome of the February 18 presidential poll.

Besigye, who is with the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), was charged Wednesday with disobeying lawful police orders before the Kasangati Magistate’s Court in Wakiso district.

Police spokesman Fred Enanga told local media that Besigye was detained last week while on his way to the FDC party headquarters in Najjanankumbi to attend weekly protest prayers.

“We have footage showing that Dr. Besigye stood atop his vehicle and spoke to the crowd at Kalerwe without any police notice. That amounts to illegal assembly, which is contrary to public order management Act,” Enanga said.

Besigye’s defense attorney, Peter Mukidi Walubiri, disagreed saying the police are to blame for constantly violating his client’s rights as guaranteed in the constitution. He says the administration came up with trumped-up charges against the opposition leader with the aim of preventing him from meeting his supporters in any part of the country.

“It obviously will be one of the very many charges pending against him in court which is part really of the abuse of the process of court because after they charge him they never proceed to [provide] any evidence and to really prove to court that he committed any offense. It’s just harassment,” Walubiri said.

FILE - Opposition leader Kizza Besigye (C) is arrested by police outside his home in Kasangati, Uganda, Feb. 22, 2016. His laywer says the government has never been able to secure a single conviction against him.

FILE - Opposition leader Kizza Besigye (C) is arrested by police outside his home in Kasangati, Uganda, Feb. 22, 2016. His laywer says the government has never been able to secure a single conviction against him.

30 cases, no conviction

“That is why I think the over 30 cases they have referred against him in the last two or so years, they have never secured a single conviction. They will come to court saying investigations continue. At the very best, they can bring one witness until the charges are dismissed by court,” he added.

“When you are charged you have to get bail then you have to continue reporting to the police and to court, and you don’t really have time to concentrate on your ordinary work. Meantime, they portray you in the media as somebody who is running against the law.”

The police also accused Besigye of refusing to sign a criminal summons he was served on April 8.

Walubiri rejected the accusation as yet another trumped-up charge.

“The accusation that they took criminal charges against him and he refused to sign it is not correct. It is just something concocted because every day they arrest him. They take him to police…" he said. "The court records are there to show that it is now part of his routine to report to police; it is part of the routine to go and answer all kinds of charges. Why wouldn’t he sign a mere criminal summons?”

Walubiri says the government‘s continual charges against Besigye amount to harassment and a demonstration that the administration is toying with the country’s judicial system. He insists that the opposition leader has not broken any lawful order from the police.

Police surrounded Besigye’s home and erected road blocks along the route leading to his house shortly after the February 18 general election. Leading FDC party leaders were initially prevented from visiting the presidential candidate at his home, which they said thwarted their efforts to legally challenge the disputed presidential election.

The electoral commission declared incumbent President Yoweri Museveni winner of the presidential vote.

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