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Novelist tortured, detained for using Twitter to disturb Uganda’s President Museveni

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A prominent Ugandan writer and critic of long-ruling leader Yoweri Museveni has been charged with communications offences related to tweets critical of the president and his son, a charge sheet showed on Tuesday.

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has been in detention by the military since December 28, when armed men broke into his house and took him away.

Mr Rukirabashaija was charged with “offensive communication,” citing his tweets in December that were critical of Mr Museveni and his son, Muhoozi Kainerubaga, a general and commander of land forces in the military.

His charges also include “willfully and repeatedly using his Twitter handle to disturb the peace of his Mr Museveni with no purpose of legitimate communication.”

His lawyer said Mr Rukirabashaija was tortured and that he was urinating blood at one time.

Police and the military have not responded to the allegations of torture.

He was remanded and is expected to be brought to court again on January 21.

Mr Rukirabashaija, a novelist, has written several books but his most acclaimed is a satirical novel, ‘The Greedy Barbarian’, for which last year he won the PEN Pinter Prize International Writer of Courage award.

The novel tackles themes of corruption and greed and has widely been interpreted in Uganda to refer to the political life of Mr Museveni.

He has previously been arrested and questioned by the military about whether the novel was about Mr Museveni.

His detention and allegations of torture have drawn criticism and pressure to release him from local activists and international diplomats.

Rights defenders, including the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Jim Risch and Eamon Gilmore, EU special representative for human rights, are also fighting for his release.

Mr Gilmore tweeted on January 5 and demanded his release saying, “I’m alarmed by reports of alleged torture and incommunicado detention of author @KakwenzaRukira.”

Days before he was detained, Mr Rukirabashaija posted several critical comments critical of Messrs Museveni and Kainerubaga. He said Mr Kainerubaga was “obese,” assailed his military credentials and denounced the purported plans to have him succeed his father.

(Reuters/NAN)

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