USA speaks out on Besigye’s treason case

Friday October 15 2010

By Gerald Bareebe

The United States has welcomed the Constitutional Court ruling that dismissed treason charges against FDC leader Kizza Besigye. In a press briefing yesterday, Mr Philip Crawley, the USA assistant secretary bureau of public affairs, said the ruling will allow Dr Besigye “to campaign freely and without fear of prosecution from the state.”

“The United States welcomes the decision of Uganda’s Constitutional Court, which yesterday [Tuesday] dismissed long-standing treason charges against Forum for Democratic Change president Kizza Besigye,” Mr Crawly said.

He added: “Functioning democracies require an independent judiciary, and we believe the court’s decision to dismiss these charges reflects such independence.”

On Tuesday, the court blocked the treason and terrorism trials against Dr Besigye and 10 others, in the High Court and in General Court Martial.

The panel of five judges said the State cannot continue with the cases because its agents violated the rights of the accused by besieging the High Court and re-arresting the suspects to block their release on bail.

The judges also permanently prohibited the state from using any process to initiate and prosecute the petitioners in connection with the alleged treason charges.

The USA said yesterday the Court ruling is an encouraging sign for the independence of judiciary in Uganda.
“It also underscores the importance of ensuring that opposition leaders have the legal and political space to campaign freely,” Mr Crawly said.

The ruling was a major victory for the FDC leader, who was arrested in 2005 upon return from exile and charged with rape but High Court ruled that the rape case was fabricated.

The ruling means that Dr Besigye, who is also the flag-bearer of the opposition coalition, will go into the 2011 elections with no charges against him, unless the state appeals the ruling.