Ugandan lawmaker tortured, blinded – claim

76

Ugandan opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine accused police of torturing and blinding an ally, shortly before the lawmaker, detained over coronavirus social distancing rules, was brought to court on a stretcher.

Wine, a pop star whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, seeks to oust aging leader Yoweri Museveni (75) in presidential polls next year.

A leading Wine supporter, lawmaker Francis Zaake, was detained on April 19 and accused of committing a “negligent act likely to spread an infection of disease”, an apparent reference to coronavirus.

Zaake supporters say he was arrested after distributing food to help people cope with the coronavirus lockdown. Zaake has since been detained by security forces at several locations.

“He was tortured at each of the detention facilities. His eyes were sprayed with a substance that left him unable to see,” Wine told a press conference.

After Zaake was brought to court on Monday, the court declined to allow him to be charged and ordered he be taken to hospital and treated first, judiciary spokesman Solomon Muyita said.

Police spokesman, Patrick Onyango denied Zaake was tortured and declined to answer further questions.

Uganda, which reported only 75 cases of COVID-19 and no deaths to date, has one Africa’s strictest lockdowns to combat the spread of coronavirus.

All schools and businesses apart from the most essential were ordered shut and bans imposed on both public and private vehicles as well as public gatherings.

Since emerging as a key figure against Museveni, Wine accused government of targeting him and his supporters. His rallies are dispersed with teargas, beatings and detentions.

In a clash in 2018 Wine, Zaake and other opposition supporters were beaten by security personnel, some requiring medical treatment abroad for their injuries.