KAMPALA – Uganda’s leading opposition leader was released on bail by a court in the capital after being charged in connection with violent anti-government protests that led to the death of a police officer, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Kizza Besigye, a former close ally of incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, has been the galvanising figure of a series of “walk-to-work” protests since last April over the high cost of living.
“He has been charged with managing an unlawful society that incited the public against the police which led to the death of a police officer. He has however been released on bail,” Besigye’s lawyer David Mpanga said.
Besigye, who lost a presidential race with Museveni for the third time in February last year, was among 16 people arrested last week after the police officer died as security forces tried to break up a procession of opposition supporters.
If convicted, Mpanga said, Besigye could face up to seven years in jail. He was ordered to return to court on April 17.
Officials accuse Besigye of seeking to sow lawlessness and exploit it to topple Museveni. The government launched a crackdown last year to quell the protests, leaving at least 9 people dead.
Last year, Besigye announced he was quitting the leadership of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party to focus on championing civil disobedience campaigns.
Police kept him under house arrest for about two weeks last October to prevent him from participating in the protests, but a court ruled that the action was illegal.
Museveni, initially hailed for restoring order following years of anarchy in the east African country, has come under increasing Western criticism recently for Uganda’s growing authoritarianism, corruption and human rights abuses.