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Uganda charges lawmaker with treason, lets him travel abroad - lawyer

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KAMPALA (Reuters) – Ugandan police on Monday gave a second opposition lawmaker the green light to travel abroad for medical treatment after he said he had been tortured in custody, but they also charged him with treason, his lawyer said.

Francis Zaake and four other lawmakers, including popular singer Bobi Wine, were detained on Aug. 13 in the northwestern town of Arua, accused of throwing stones at the convoy during the campaign for a parliamentary seat.

All five lawmkers have rejected the accusation.

Among them is Robert Kyagulanyi, better known by his stage name of Bobi Wine. He arrived in the United States on Saturday to seek medical treatment for what he said was torture by authorities.

Zaake has also alleged torture at the hands of security forces while in custody. Authorities have rejected the allegations of torture.

On Aug.31, both were detained at the capital Kampala’s international airport as they prepared to travel abroad for medical care.

“The police have charged the Hon Zaake with treason and unlawful escape & bonded him for a month to allow him travel for medical treatment,” his lawyer Nicholas Opiyo said on Twitter.

Opiyo told Reuters Zaake was on his way to the airport to travel to India for treatment.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Friday’s arrests prompted protests in different parts of Kampala, with demonstrators burning tyres and piling rocks and other barricades in the middle of the roads.

Kyagulanyi was elected last year and has amassed a large following among youth electrified by his scathing criticism of Museveni, sometimes delivered in his songs.

Museveni has won praise in the West for his opposition to militant Islam in the region, but many Ugandans regard the 73-year-old as out of touch with his people, nearly 80 percent of whom are under the age of 30.

He has been in power since 1986 and has repeatedly been accused by his opponents of rights abuses and the widespread use of security forces to suppress opposition to his rule. He denies charges that his government is involved in rights violations.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Writing by Aaron Maasho, Editing by William Maclean)

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