Uganda: Besigye free at last!

Opposition Forum for Democratic Change leader Kizza Besigye walked to freedom yesterday after the High Court ordered his immediate release.

However, the public celebrations after his release was announced turned sour when the riot police engaged Besigye’s supporters in running battles. Police fired tear gas at crowds on Kampala Road and beat up others as they chanted and sang.

At about 3:30p.m, Besigye left the court, where his rape trial began earlier in the day, atop his Wife’s Pajero.

A sea of people jammed the roads to catch a glimpse of the presidential candidate who has been in jail since his arrest on November 14 on treason and rape charges.

Earlier Justice John Bosco Katutsi had ruled that Besigye had been in illegal detention since November 25 when the remand warrant issued by the General Court Martial expired.

The government immediately filed a notice of an intention to appeal against the ruling.

“If sanity is to be regained, the applicant must be given his freedom to be on bail as granted by the Principal Judge,” Justice Katutsi said. “The total sum of my holding is that the continued detention of the applicant at Luzira is illegal and unlawful. He should be released forthwith unless held on other lawful orders. I order accordingly.”

The General Court Martial, where Besigye is facing charges of terrorism and illegal possession of firearms, had purportedly renewed his remand from November 25, to December 19, and January 3, but the judge said the written notes on the warrant “matter adjourned” did not amount to a renewal as the State claimed.

Moreover, the judge added, the Court Martial had no business renewing the remand warrant when the High Court had on December 2 ordered a stay of its proceedings.

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Source: Monitor (Uganda)

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