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Ugandan Opposition Politician Faces Terrorism Charges

24 November 2005

Ugandan opposition politician Kizze Besigye, who has been charged with treason and rape before the High Court, will also face a terrorism charge in military court. Critics say the charges, coming just ahead of the country's general elections, are politically motivated.

The acting spokesman for the Ugandan army, Major Felix Kulayigye, describes to VOA Mr. Besigye's military court appearance that took place Thursday.

"He has already been arraigned in the court martial, and as we speak right now he's in the High Court to listen to his bail application," he said.

Dr. Besigye, who was once President Yoweri Museveni's physician, was originally charged with treason and rape.

But, Major Kulayigye says the additional charge of terrorism was brought against Dr. Besigye and more than a dozen others for their alleged support of the People's Redemption Army, a rebel group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The opposition politician also stands accused of illegally possessing firearms.

A military court official Thursday reportedly entered a "not guilty" plea on Dr. Besigye's behalf when he refused to speak.

Dr. Besigye, who leads the political party Forum for Democratic Change, retired from the Ugandan army several years ago. He spent four years in exile and was arrested shortly after his return. He has been in detention ever since.

The spokesman for Forum for Democratic Change, Wafula Oguttu, tells VOA that Dr. Besigye's arrest, detention and trials are meant to prevent the popular politician from running against President Museveni in elections scheduled for next March.

"The military would just want him to be kept in jail so that he doesn't campaign, and I think the government or the president and his military men would not like to lose the election to him [Besigye]," he said.

He says he fears for Dr. Besigye's life.

Many Ugandans see the charges against Dr. Besigye as politically motivated. In an earlier interview, Ugandan political analyst Frederick Ssempebwa said Dr. Besigye's arrest and detention is one sign that the upcoming presidential elections will likely not be free and fair.

The United States has also expressed deep concern about Dr. Besigye's arrest and detention, urging authorities to bring him to a fair trial well before the elections.

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