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Africa

Uganda's Besigye court appearance on treason charges delayed

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye was set to appear in court on Wednesday after being remanded to a maximum security prison two weeks ago. Distributing T-shirts showing his face has led to arrests.

Kizza Besigye did not appear in court on Wednesday (01.06.2016). The Ugandan Monitor newspaper reported that Principal State Attorney Lino Anguzu had told the Nakawa court that "Besigye could not be brought to court because of security fears." Proceedings were adjourned until June 15.

Besigye has been charged with treason, which carries the death penalty in Uganda. He was arrested because he had declared himself the winner of the national elections in February 2016.

Besigye came second in the poll, but he rejected the official results as fraudulent and called for an international audit.

Uganda's top court heard a petition against Museveni's victory and ruled that he had been validly reelected.

However, Ugandan human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo told DW "there is a question about the legitimacy of that win."

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Local media say three youths were arrested over the weekend because they had been trying to distribute T-shirts bearing a poster-like image of Besigye.

Police said the three were alleged to be part of a bigger group that had printed 120 T-shirts "to promote anti-social protests at Nakawa High Court" when Besigye appears there on Wednesday, Theinsider Uganda news website said.

Museveni in parliament

There was outrage at the arrests on social media. It spilled over into the Ugandan parliament on Tuesday when opposition MPs said they were incensed at the T-shirt detentions.

The opposition MPs were themselves demonstrating for Besigye's release, raising placards while Museveni was delivering his first state-of-the-nation address since he was reelected.

Museveni made no reference to Besigye or opposition protests in his two hour speech which focused largely on the economy.

T-shirt arrests

Opiyo said the arrests of the youths with Besigye T-shirts were not done with the intention of charging them in court.

"They were done with the intention of striking fear in the hearts of people who might be thinking of doing similar things," he said.

The T-shirt image of Besigye resembles the 2008 Obama 'Hope' poster by street artist Shepard Fairey. It showed the gaunt features of US presidential candidate Barack Obama as he worked the campaign trail all the way to the White House.

This is no coincidence. 'Hope-inspired' images of all Ugandan presidential candidates for the 2011 elections in the East African country - Yoweri Museveni included - were placed online for general use during campaigning.


Ole Tangen Jr. contributed to this report.

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