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Uganda’s Besigye House Arrest Reaches 40th Day

FILE - Uganda's main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, center, is arrested by police and thrown into the back of a blacked-out police van which whisked him away and was later seen at a rural police station, outside his home in Kasangati, Uganda Monday, Feb. 22, 2016.

It has been 40 days since Ugandan police placed presidential candidate Kizza Besigye of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change under house arrest following that country’s February 18 presidential election.

The Ugandan Electoral Commission announced that the election had been won by the 30 year incumbent President Yoweri Museveni with 60 percent of the vote to Besigye's 35 percent. However, the results have been challenged in court by one of the other losing candidates. Besigye says he has not been able to launch a challenge because he has been under house arrest.

Ugandan police spokesperson Fred Enanga told VOA earlier this month that Besigye is being held under section 24 of the Police Act which empowers the police to carry out what they call “preventive arrest and detention” of anyone whose unrestrictive movement the police may deem a threat to public order.

The police have also restricted visitors to and from Besigye’s house.

On Easter Monday, police intercepted two mini-busses carrying a group of 72 people, including two Anglican Church Clerics from Besigye's home district of Rukungiri.

Besigye said the group had come to conduct prayers with him since he had been prevented by police from attending Easter Sunday services.

“Members of the All Saints Church which is my local church, have chosen to come and celebrate Easter Monday with me because I normally attend Easter service at their church and when they knew I could not go to any church, they decided to come and have a communion service with me. And so there were more than 70 members of our church who came this morning. They were detained about two or three miles (four kilometers) before reaching my home,” he said.

The police were not immediately available to respond to the Easter Monday incident, but police spokesman Fred Enanga explained to VOA earlier this month the police do not want troublemakers to visit Besigye.

“We have enabled several visitors to his place. Then there are actually those ones where we have information that their visit is not helpful to the situation we are trying to bring under control where there actually are more persons with inciteful messages and so on. Sometimes we do allow, sometimes we don’t based on the intelligence we have on the ground, on the intentions and motivations of those who are actually going to visit him,” Enanga said.

Besigye say the police have no constitutional basis to detain him in his own house or to stop anyone from visiting him. He again said the police detention of him in his own house is illegal.

“As I have said before, the police action is completely illegal; it has no basis at all in law because my home is not a place of detention. If they chose to detain whether for preventive purposes as they claim or any other reason, they should detain me in a place designated for detaining people, not my home,” Besigye said.

He also said if the police suspect that he has in any way broken the law, then the law requires that they bring him before a magistrate of the court of law.

“They cannot be the accusers; they cannot be the investigators and the judges. They must put me before people who will investigate their claims. I have never been presented to any court of law. It is now 40 days since I was detained. This is absolutely illegal,” Besigye said.

Besigye has also asked the courts to declare the siege of his house illegal and has requested damages to be awarded for the inconvenience and mental anguish it has cost him.

He said the delay in hearing his case is one more example of how Uganda is gradually turning into a kind of failed state, and also how the courts have been compromised.

Police spokesman Enanga said the police will respect whatever decision is made by the court regarding Besigye’s fate.