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Africa

Activist charged with insulting Ugandan president released on bail

Ugandan academic Stella Nyanzi who had called President Yoweri Museveni "a pair of buttocks" has been released on bail after over a month in jail. Her lawyer fears she might be arrested again soon on other charges.

Frail-looking university researcher Stella Nyanzi  appeared in court on Wednesday facing charges of offensive comments and cyber harassment. She had earlier criticized Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his wife Janet, who's in charge of Uganda's education ministry, in a Facebook post for not making good on election promises to provide sanitary napkins for schoolgirls.

Nyanzi has now been released on bail of about 10 million Ugandan shillings (2,530 euros; $2,750). Five guarantors were also required to sign non-cash bails of the same amount, DW correspondent Alex Gitta reports. 

"It is a great relief that Stella Nyanzi is no longer behind bars, as she should never have been arrested in the first place. The government's attempt to prosecute her for speaking out for the rights of Uganda's women and girls is an affront to freedom of expression," said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

"The authorities must now let common sense prevail by immediately and unconditionally dropping all the charges against her. The continuation of this farcical case blatantly violates Uganda's constitution, and its regional and international human rights obligations," Jackson added.

Nyanzi in need of medical care

Nyanzi's lawyer Nicholas Opiyo told reporters his client had a malaria attack and was feeling unwell. She was reportedly supported by prison guards when entering the court room. 

"Now that she's been released, we will seek proper medical attention," Opiyo told DW.

Nyanzi was later whisked away in Opiyo's car as there was talk the government had filed new charges and wanted to re-arrest her as she came out.

Opiyo says it is likely there will be new charges brought up against her.

"It's been common practice for many such suspects to be re-arrested. We know for a fact that the charges before the court are not the only charges that have been brought up against Stella," he said.

"When she was in detention, she was interrogated for other offences, namely the offence of collecting money from the public for the 'pads for girls' campaign. So there is a possibility that that file is ready and they might use that file to arrest her. We hope that doesn't happen."

Museveni has ruled Uganda since 1986; his opponents are frequently arrested or beaten by police. 

Alex Gitta in Kampala contributed to this report.

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