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Award-Winning Ugandan Writer Rearrested after Being Granted Bail

This video grab from an AFPTV video taken on Jan. 21, 2022 in Kampala, shows Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, a prominent Ugandan satirical writer and an outspoken government critic, appearing in court for a bail hearing via a video link from prison.

Lawyers representing award-winning Ugandan writer and prominent government critic Kakwenza Rukirabashaija say he has been rearrested, hours after being granted bail by a court. His lawyers say plainclothes men took him from prison before his release and drove off to an unknown destination.

Ugandan writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija had been offered a conditional bail Tuesday, but when his lawyers arrived at the Kitalya prison facility where he was being held, he was nowhere to be found.

Rukirabashaija’s lawyer, Eron Kiiza, spoke to VOA.

“The prison officers didn’t have him and pointed to a car that was moving out of prison as the one that took him. And on condition of anonymity, they described it as a military SFC car and it had no number plate. And they also confiscated our bail forms,” said the lawyer.

Kiiza was referring to the Uganda’s Special Forces Command, which conducts specialized operations.

Detained at the end of December, Rukirabashaija was held incommunicado at an undisclosed location before being charged with two counts of “offensive communication” against President Yoweri Museveni and his son, Lt. General Muhoozi Kainerugaba. Kainerugaba is seen as a possible successor to his long-ruling father in Uganda’s 2026 election.

After being charged, Rukirabashaija was then transferred to Kitalya prison, where he was picked up Tuesday.

Lawyer Eron Kiiza said he will be heading back to court Thursday.

“It is back to square one. SFC has our man again. (The) SFC that tortured him for 13 days and SFC that disregarded all court orders for his liberty that have hitherto been given by the courts. We are going back to court. We don’t know how to do military warfare,” said Kiiza.

In a tweet, Uganda’s opposition leader, Mathias Mpuuga, said when he went to visit Rukirabashaija in prison, the writer had scars and other marks of torture all over his body, and he limped slightly when he walked into the room. The writer reportedly told Mpuuga that soldiers used a pair of pliers to pluck his fingernails and other body parts before making him dance nonstop as soldiers insulted and beat him.

There has been no response from the government or security forces regarding the accusations of torture.

Rukirabashaija is best known for a novel he wrote about greed and corruption in a fictional country widely thought to be Uganda. Last year, he was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize as an “International Writer of Courage.”