A Ugandan court set aside the conviction and jail term meted out to a popular academic over profanity- and vulgarity-laced criticism of President Yoweri Museveni, ruling she did not get a fair trial.
Stella Nyanzi (45) a university lecturer, author and mother of three, has a huge following for her attacks on Museveni, often via Facebook posts, over his decades-old grip on power and crackdowns on dissent.
In August last year, a magistrate’s court convicted her on charges of cyber-harassment and sentenced her to 18 months in jail, which she subsequently appealed.
Appeals judge Henry Peter Adonyo set aside her conviction on Thursday after accepting Nyanzi’s argument that she did not have a fair hearing and trial in violation of the constitution. He said the lower court had no jurisdiction to try the case.
Adonyo faulted the lower court for, among others, rejecting Nyanzi’s plea to summon witnesses and not giving time to prepare her defence.
“Why was I in prison for more than a year? I want to know. What is wrong with courts which abuse the rights and freedoms constitutionally provided for?” Nyanzi said after the decision.
A scuffle with supporters ensued as prison officers tried to hustle Nyanzi back to jail for reasons not made clear.
She fainted during the melee and supporters took her outside the court compound. Security personnel fired teargas to disperse a small crowd gathered as the disturbance unfolded.
A prisons service spokesman could not be contacted for comment on why officers tried to return Nyanzi to jail.
Rights activists and opposition supporters who came to witness the hearing shouted opposition slogans after the ruling.
The charges against Nyanzi stemmed from a Facebook post in 2018 in which she denounced Museveni as a pair of buttocks, among other crude invective.