Uganda Charges Pop Star Lawmaker With Weapons Possession

(Bloomberg) -- A Ugandan military court charged a musician-turned-politician who’s one of President Yoweri Museveni’s leading critics with the illegal possession of weapons and ammunition, his attorney said.

Opposition lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi, who performs Afrobeat under the stage-name Bobi Wine, was charged in the northern town of Gulu on two counts of unlawful possession of firearms and one of possessing ammunition, lawyer Medard Sseggona said by phone. He dismissed the charges as “bogus, ridiculous” and “politically motivated by a scared president.”

The lawmaker was arrested this week in Uganda’s northwest Arua town after supporters of a candidate he backed in a local by-election allegedly pelted stones at a convoy carrying Museveni, who was campaigning for a ruling-party candidate. Uganda’s army said on Twitter that “one person was shot dead in the whole fracas.” Kyagulanyi has said his driver was the victim.

Kyagulanyi, who was elected to parliament last year, has been an outspoken critic of the 73-year-old president, Uganda’s ruler for more than three decades. Parliament in December abolished the upper-age limit of 75 for presidential candidates, clearing the way for Museveni to run for re-election in 2021.

‘Brutal Treatment’

Kyagulanyi was remanded at a military prison in the capital, Kampala, until Aug. 23, his lawyer said.

“Prosecuting civilians in military courts denies them of a fair trial and is clearly unlawful under international and African human-rights law,” Maria Burnett, an associate director at Human Rights Watch, said of Kyangulanyi’s arrest in an emailed statement. “It cannot be justified by the types of charges and it should never be a matter of convenience or political expediency.”

Three lawmakers and Kassiano Wadri, the winner of Wednesday’s election, were charged in Gulu’s magistrate’s court on Thursday for alleged involvement in obstructing the presidential convoy, local media reported.

The U.S. Embassy in Kampala said it was deeply concerned about reports of the brutal treatment of the lawmakers and journalists in Arua. One member of parliament, Francis Zaake, was in the hospital in a critical condition after military officers left him there, NTV Uganda reported Friday.

“All of those detained have the right to humane treatment, due process, access to lawyers and to their families, and a prompt, fair, and transparent trial,” the U.S. embassy said on Twitter.

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