Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo still in custody as police analyse exhibits

This photo tweeted by DP presidential candidate Norbert Mao on December 23, 2020 shows (L-R) Kasese woman MP, Winnie Kiiza, detained human rights lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo and Mao himself at Special investigations Unit in Kireka.

PHOTO/ COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • Mr Opiyo has built his name as a human rights defender and often times been at loggerheads with the government over a number of human rights abuses.
  • Mr Opiyo was reportedly arrested alongside other lawyers investigating the November 18th and 19th 2020 riots, in which over 50 people were shot dead during protests triggered by his arrest.
  • They include Herbert Dakasi, Anthony Odur and Esomu Obure and NUP's Human Rights Officer, Hamid Tenywa. 

Police said Wednesday that human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo who was arrested on Tuesday is still in their custody as detectives analyse exhibits that have so far been recovered.

This comes hours after the Chapter Four Uganda executive disrector’s legal team led by Mr David Mpanga visited him in the morning.

"We would like to further inform the public that the Task Team actively investigating lawyer Nicholas Opiyo and others for violating anti-Money laundering rules has deepened its investigations into the preliminary findings,” police tweeted Wednesday before adding: "...our forensic teams are analysing exhibits that have been recovered so far. The suspects still remain in our custody at the Special Investigations Division Kireka.”

Eye witnesses said Tuesday that armed security officials in plain clothes confiscated Mr Opiyo's laptop, documents, and his car keys as they arrested him at Lamaro restaurant located in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb. Moments later, the security team returned to the scene and drove away his car.

DP presidential candidate, Mr Norbert Mao who visited Opiyo in custody today tweeted saying he’s “upbeat and totally unfazed by the allegations against him. Unfortunately the authorities didn’t agree to release him. Let’s persist in the campaign to #FreeNicholasOpiyo unconditionally.”

Opiyo’s arrest sparked condemnation from various quarters including foreign missions. In a statement posted on her official Twitter handle, the US Ambassador to Uganda, Natalie E. Brown described the arrest as troubling.

"I just met Opiyo and was impressed by his commitment to rule of law and to uplifting his fellow citizens. News of his arrest is troubling and I call on the Ugandan Government to ensure his safety and wellbeing. Civil society must be able to carry out its essential role in Uganda," Natalie wrote.

 Mr Opiyo has built his name as a human rights defender and often times been at loggerheads with the government over a number of human rights abuses.

 His interviews with international media outlets have often drawn a backlash with the government, accusing him of working for foreign interests.

However, it’s not clear whether Opiyo’s arrest is in anyway connected to this accusation.

Last week, Financial Intelligence Authority froze accounts for four non-government organisations (NGOs) involved in good governance and election observation in the country.    

Mr Opiyo represents the NGOs whose accounts were frozen by security last week on accusations of supporting terrorism in Uganda.

Mr Opiyo was reportedly arrested alongside other lawyers investigating the November 18th and 19th 2020 riots, in which over 50 people were shot dead during protests triggered by his arrest.
They include Herbert Dakasi, Anthony Odur and Esomu Obure and NUP's Human Rights Officer, Hamid Tenywa. 

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