KAMPALA, Uganda ( Associated Press) — Ugandan authorities on Tuesday filed criminal charges against a writer critical of the government, whose ongoing detention has raised concerns at home and abroad.
Kakwenza Rukirabashiza, who was detained since December 28, was charged with two counts of “offensive communications” for his alleged attempts on Twitter to “distur the peace” of President Yoweri Museveni and his son, Lieutenant General Muhuzi Kanerugaba, Who commands the infantry of the East African country.
According to police, Rukirabashiza has since been moved to a maximum security prison outside the capital, Kampala. But Rukirabashiza’s lawyer, Aaron Kiza, told The Associated Press that his client was “secretly remanded” after the allegations were made without notice to defense lawyers.
Rukirabashiza’s next appearance in court has been scheduled for January 21.
“It is unfair and irregular,” Kiza said, adding that those who saw his client in the courtroom described him as weak. “He’s a sick man.”
The Rukirabashiza case has refocused attention on alleged excesses of security forces in enforcing Museveni’s authority.
Ugandan authorities were under pressure to release or produce Rukirabashiza after two judicial orders, including one by a high court judge, by security officials asking the suspect to appear in public.
Activists, opposition figures and others in and outside Uganda have called for the release of Rukirabashiza, who was tortured while in custody.
The US embassy in Uganda called for Rukirabashiza’s release, saying that civil society, human rights defenders, journalists and others “all play an important role in a democratic society and should be able to do their work free of oppression.”
Satire writer Rukirabashiza has been detained twice since 1986 for his work highlighting the failures of Ugandan leader Museveni. The author’s latest trouble stems from a series of tweets in which he describes Museveni as an election thief and first son Kenerugaba. An overweight and “intellectually bankrupt” soldier who hopes to succeed his father as president.
Defense attorney Kiza said she believed her client was previously in the hands of Special Forces Command, an army unit that protects the family first. The Special Forces Command has not commented on the allegations against the author.
Rukirabashiza, 33, was awarded the Pen Pinter Prize last year for an international writer of courage.
Writers’ human rights organization English Pain said in a statement last week that it was “seriously concerned” about the author’s detention.