Ugandan court orders release of satirical novelist

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Ugandas President Yoweri Museveni.
Ugandas President Yoweri Museveni.
Badru Katumba / AFP
  • Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was arrested at his home in the capital last week. 
  • He was detained and allegedly tortured for posting undesirable comments about President Yoweri Museveni's son. 
  • The author won acclaim for his 2020 satirical novel, "The Greedy Barbarian". 

A Kampala court on Tuesday ordered the release of an acclaimed Ugandan novelist who was detained and allegedly tortured after he posted unflattering comments about veteran President Yoweri Museveni's son.

Satirical author and outspoken government critic Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was arrested at his home in the capital last week.

Rukirabashaija is accused of abusing Museveni's son Muhoozi Kainerugaba – a powerful general who many Ugandans believe is positioning himself to take over from his 77-year-old father – by calling him "obese" and a "curmudgeon" in social media posts.

Magistrate Irene Nambatya ruled that Rukirabashaija be "unconditionally" freed, saying: "Every police officer should comply with the above order."

The writer was due to appear in a separate court to answer charges of "offensive communication" but did not turn up, his lawyer Eron Kiiza told AFP.

Kiiza said he had been denied access to his client and that he had been tortured while in custody.

"Police are fearing to produce him in court with torture marks, that's why they are delaying to bring him to court," he said.

A police spokesperson, Charles Twiine, said Rukirabashaija was to be charged under the Computer Misuse Act with an offence that can carry up to a year in jail.

READ | East African Community (EAC) unanimously welcome DRC into regional bloc

The author won acclaim for his 2020 satirical novel, "The Greedy Barbarian", which describes high-level corruption in a fictional country.

He was awarded the 2021 PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage, which is presented annually to a writer who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs.

Rukirabashaija has been repeatedly arrested since "The Greedy Barbarian" was published, and he has said he was tortured while being interrogated by military intelligence about his work.

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