By Maggie Fick
NAIROBI (Reuters) – A popular Ugandan musician-turned-legislator arraigned on treason charges had breathing problems and was left partially paralysed after beatings in detention, lawmakers who visited him said on Friday.
In an unpublished report seen by Reuters the parliamentarians said Robert Kyagulanyi had told them that he had been tortured by men in military uniforms.
The document was not published or formally tabled in parliament as the chairwoman of the committee of MPs, who visited Kyagulanyi while he was held in a military barracks, refused to sign the report, authorities said.
In its conclusion, the parliamentary report said the rights of Kyagulanyi, four other lawmakers, and nearly 30 other people arrested for their alleged roles in the stoning of a presidential motorcade had been “blatantly violated”.
“His left lower body was paralysed, he spoke and breathed with difficulty often breaking to catch his breath,” the report said.
“The military and other errant state functionaries that are complicit in violating the law and eroding human rights and dignity should account for their action,” it added.
Kyagulanyi walked with a crutch when he appeared in a civilian court on Thursday where he was charged with treason. The presiding magistrate granted him access to private doctors, citing the “health of the accused”.
His arrest, along with four other politicians critical of President Yoweri Museveni, sparked two days of anti-government demonstrations in the capital Kampala and other parts of the country this week.
According to Kyagulanyi men wearing uniforms of the Special Forces Command broke into his hotel room to arrest him on Aug. 14 in the northern town of Arua, where he was campaigning for an ally in a parliamentary by-election.
Kyagulanyi told the lawmakers that while he knelt on the floor with his hands up in surrender, the men struck him on the head with a blunt object, beat him with gun butts, and smashed one of his testicles.
“He showed the committee some of the scars on his body”, according to the report.
“I can’t give a comment on a report that has not been formally presented in parliament,” military spokesman Richard Karemire told Reuters by phone. “That kind of report can only be responded to by our political leader who is our minister of defence.”
Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo has repeatedly denied security personnel had deliberately beaten Kyagulanyi, lawmakers or any of those detained over the presidential motorcade stoning.
On Friday he said the detained lawmakers had now been produced in court, which should put an end to “verbal claims about torture”, he said. The added that the report had not been officially tabled “because the chairperson disputed it”.
Contacted by Reuters, the chairwoman of the committee of lawmakers did not immediately comment on her reasons for refusing to sign-off on the report.
Kyagulanyi, 36, entered parliament last year as an outspoken critic of Museveni’s government. He has a large youth following in the East African country where unemployment is high, public services are lacking, and there is a widespread perception that corruption by officials is rampant and rarely punished.
Opponents accuse Museveni, in power since 1986, of stifling dissent through intimidation, beatings and detentions, charges his government denies.
Museveni says he enjoys a genuine mass following among Ugandans and Western states have welcomed Uganda’s contribution to a peacekeeping force fighting Islamist insurgents in Somalia.
(Reporting By Maggie Fick; Editing by Jon Boyle)