Ugandan police have rearrested two opposition lawmakers on charges of treason just minutes after they were released on bail in another case in which they stand accused of murder. The National Unity Party lawmakers deny the charges, which they say are politically motivated.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga in a statement said authorities were holding legislator Ssegirinya Muhammed on fresh charges.
Earlier Monday, upon his release, security personnel traveling at high speed pursued the vehicle that had picked up Ssegirinya from a prison in the Wakiso district. When it pulled over, they forcefully put him into their vehicle.
Enanga said they were holding Ssegirinya at the special Investigations division for further processing.
“We want to inform the public that Honorable Ssegirinya Muhammed has also been rearrested on fresh charges of treason and incitement to violence by the joint security task team of investigators,” said Enanga.
The other lawmaker, Allan Ssewanyana, was rearrested outside the prison gate minutes after his release on Friday evening.
The two legislators, both members of the National Unity Platform party, were arrested earlier this month.
They were accused of being involved in a recent spate of murders in Masaka district in central Uganda that left close to 30 people dead. Many of the dead were killed with machetes.
The state charged the lawmakers with three counts of murder and attempted murder. In their most recent court appearance, prosecutors told the judge they were still investigating the lawmakers and amended the charge to terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism.
Shamim Malende, the lawyer for both legislators and from whose vehicle Ssegirinya was forcefully taken, said authorities keep changing the charges against the men with no valid evidence.
“When they speak of inciting violence in Uganda, when they speak of treason, when they speak terrorism, unlawful assembly, those are political cases in Uganda. I think there's a problem. It is either fooling the nation or it is that they do not want to speak the truth. It’s now looking like persecuting the political opponents, people who belong to the National Unity party or are against government bad policies,” said Malende.
Joel Ssenyonyi, the National Unity Platform spokesperson, said the rearrest of the legislators is President Yoweri Museveni’s way of fulfilling his word when he said he would destroy the party led by musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine.
“You know these guys are bushmen. They were in the bush as rebels and that’s why they are behaving like bushmen, disregarding court orders. Court releases somebody on bail and you say no, we shall rearrest them as they get out of jail. And that’s what Mr. Museveni is doing,” said Ssenyonyi.
The legislators’ rearrest comes just days after the president clashed with Chief Justice Alphonse Owinyi Dollo over granting bail to capital offense suspects.
While the chief justice argued that bail was a constitutional right, Museveni argued that if anyone is arrested for murder, giving that person bail is a provocation and abominable.