Court Orders Release of Novelist Arrested for Insulting Ugandan President

A Ugandan court has ordered the release of a novelist, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who was arrested for allegedly insulting President Yoweri Museveni and his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, on Twitter.

Irene Nambatya, Grade One Magistrate for Makindye, ordered Rukirabashaija’s unconditional release on Tuesday.

Rukirabashaija, who has been in police custody for about a week, was arrested late last year on charges of offensive communication.

He was ordered to be released on the basis of an application submitted by lawyers Eron Kiiza, Nalukoola Luyimbazi, and Samuel Wanda.

According to Kakwenza’s lawyers, he has been held in unknown detention without being produced in court within the 48-hour period, a violation of his constitutional right to liberty and a fair trial.

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Furthermore, they claim that Kakwenza has been detained at an unknown facility and that Uganda Police Force, who are detaining him, refuse to disclose his location while his file is being handled by the Cyber Crimes Unit of Police in Kibuli.

Kiiza says they are not sure if the government will comply with the release order or take him to court.

Recall that PEN International had on Monday protested the arrest of the novelist and political activist. Several activists had also come out to pressure the government to release him. Some have said Rukirabashaija was exercising his right to speak out to those in power.

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Rukirabashaija is the 2021 PEN Pinter Prize International writer of courage award winner and also its Uganda board member.

In a statement, PEN International noted that it fears for his safety and wellbeing as the security forces continue to hold him incommunicado and without charging him in a court of law.

“We demand that Uganda authorities immediately and unconditionally release Rukirabashaija and stop harassing him over his opinion and exercise of freedom of expression,” read the statement in part.

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