August 27, 2018 / 9:48 AM / 3 months ago

Ugandan court grants bail to lawmakers charged with treason

KAMPALA (Reuters) - A Ugandan High Court granted bail on Monday to 33 people, including popular songwriter Robert Kyagulanyi, who have been charged with treason over their alleged role in the stoning of President Yoweri Museveni’s convoy this month.

Ugandan musician turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi (C) leads activists during a demonstration against new taxes including a levy on access to social media platforms in Kampala, Uganda July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Newton Nambwaya

Kyagulanyi, who only entered parliament last year, has been left unable to stand after being beaten while in detention, his lawyer told Reuters last week, citing relatives who visited him. The Ugandan government says the assault accusation is “rubbish”.

The detention of Kyagulanyi and other politicians critical of Museveni sparked two days of anti-government demonstrations in the capital Kampala and other parts of Uganda last week.

They all deny the charges against them.

Bail was set for each applicant at 5 million Ugandan shillings (£1,032), payable if they fail to show up again in court. The state prosecutor did not challenge the granting of bail.

“I will set further conditions on their bail later,” High Court Judge Stephen Mubiru said at a televised court hearing.

Kyagulanyi, a popular musician, has composed songs whose biting criticism of Museveni’s government have won him a large youth following.

Judge Mubiru ordered the 33 accused to reappear in a lower court on August 30, but also rejected a request from the prosecutor to confiscate their passports.

During the court session, two of the accused fainted, said Kizza Besigye, an opposition leader, who said he helped to resuscitate one of the men.

“This morning as we were in court, two actually collapsed and I was involved in trying to resuscitate one of them, Mr Shaban Atiku, who was in a very weak condition and is in extreme pain,” Besigye, who is a medical doctor and a former personal physician of Museveni, told private-owned NTV Uganda.

Protesters and opposition supporters accuse Museveni, in power since 1986, of stifling dissent through intimidation, beatings and detentions, charges which his government denies.

Last October, when parliament was debating whether to remove a constitutional age limit that would have barred Museveni - now aged 74 - from seeking re-election in 2021, security forces and protesters clashed on the streets and two protesters died.

The presidential age limit has since been removed.

Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Gareth Jones

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