The embattled Ugandan main opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye has been released on a 100 million shilling non-cash bail pending the hearing of his treason charges.
In his ruling yesterday morning, Uganda’s High Court Judge Wilson Musene asked Besigye to list four sureties for the bail and ordered him to stay away from any acts of violence until his case was heard and determined, according to The Star.
Justice Musene cited Besigye’s advanced age, previous court sessions, and sureties as the main reasons for his release. Besigye will be reporting to the registrar of the court every two weeks.
The 60-year-old opposition leader was arrested in May after he dramatically swore himself in as Uganda’s President hours before incumbent President Yoweri Museveni was sworn in for his sixth term.
“The applicant has proved on oath that he is 60 years old, which is advanced age. There was no rebuttal,” Judge Musene ruled.
The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leader has been charged with treason, which is a capital offense in Uganda even though nobody has been executed in the country for many years.
Happy To Be Free
Besigye’s party FDC welcomed the release saying it is a sign of reforms in the country’s judiciary, which at times has been accused of favoring the government.
“I’m very, very happy to be free, for now,” Besigye told reporters outside the court.
Opposition supporters who flocked outside the court celebrated the news of Besigye’s release by singing Uganda’s national anthem.
Uganda’s State Attorney Florence Akello had requested the court to reject Besigye’s bail application arguing that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove his age.
But the judge overruled Akello’s request on the basis that the prosecution failed to present evidence to prove the accused was below the “advanced age,” adding that Besigye’s age had been certified by a medical officer.
Besigye has been a long-standing political challenger of President Museveni ever since the two fell out in 1999 following Besigye’s dossier “An Insider’s View of How NRM Lost the Broad-Base,” exposing Museveni’s administration.
Many people in both Uganda and the international community have continuously blamed Museveni’s government for continued harassment of the FDC leader and his supporters, especially during the electioneering period.
After the disputed presidential elections in February this year, the US State Secretary John Kerry is reported to have called President Museveni on the phone to express America’s concern over harassment of opposition supporters.
Kerry also expressed concerns about the systematic detention of opposition candidate Kizza Besigye, claiming that such actions call into question the country’s commitment to transparency and democracy.