Ugandan opposition leader charged with treason over protests

AP News
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Posted: May 14, 2016 8:26 AM
Ugandan opposition leader charged with treason over protests

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda's main opposition leader has been charged with treason and jailed in a remote area in the country's northeast, a judiciary spokesman said Saturday.

Kizza Besigye was handed charges late Friday stemming from his public attacks on the legitimacy of President Yoweri Museveni, who won a disputed election in February, said Solomon Muyita.

Besigye, a qualified physician, was Museveni's personal doctor during the guerrilla war that launched Museveni into power in 1986. He held various government positions and rose to become a colonel in the army, but then broke ranks with Museveni in 1999.

Besigye ran for president in 2001, promising a more democratic government, and has challenged Museveni in elections since then. He claims he won the February vote and has repeatedly urged his supporters to wage a defiance campaign against the authorities.

There is a video online purportedly showing Besigye being sworn in as Uganda's president as part of a mock exercise.

The Associated Press couldn't independently verify the authenticity of the video, but Besigye's party, the Forum for Democratic Change, reported on Twitter that the event took place on the eve of Museveni's inauguration for a fifth term.

Muyita cited the alleged mock inauguration of Besigye as one of the reasons for the treason charge, which carries a maximum penalty of death on conviction.

Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a lawyer for Besigye, said the treason charges "are only intended to annoy Besigye and to depict him as a person who is interested in unlawfully overthrowing the government."

He said the state would have to prove that Besigye intended to use force of arms to overthrow the government in order to have him convicted over treason.

Besigye was charged in the district of Moroto, where he had been flown after being arrested on Wednesday in the capital Kampala.