Bobi Wine, a Ugandan pop star and lawmaker seeking to challenge veteran leader Yoweri Museveni for the presidency, was freed on bail after spending two days in jail on charges of staging unlawful protests.
Magistrate Esther Nahirya granted bail after hearing Wine’s application telling him he would be returned to jail if he engaged in unlawful demonstrations while free.
Wine, real name Robert Kyagulanyi, rattled authorities with a fast-growing base of supporters electrified by his combination of music and biting criticism of Museveni.
He was jailed after being charged with offences stemming from championing a demonstration against taxes on social media usage last year.
Wine told the court after submissions by his attorneys charges against him are politically motivated and he is being persecuted “under the guise of prosecution”.
“My business is standing for the truth, my business is standing for what is morally right,” he said via a video link from a jail south of Kampala.
On the day he was jailed police used teargas to disperse groups of youths in parts of Kampala demonstrating against government and what they see as harassment of Wine for his political ambitions.
Museveni (74) and in power since 1986, is expected to stand in the next presidential election in 2021. The opposition and some rights activists say the president has grown authoritarian, citing frequent tear-gassing of opposition rallies, jailing of activists and harassment of independent media.
On Wednesday, state media regulator the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) ordered suspension of staff at 13 media outlets including radio stations and TVs for broadcasting content “likely to mislead or cause alarm to the public”.
Some media outlets had carried live broadcasts of Wine’s arrest and police dispersing supporters using teargas and water cannons.