Ugandan novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija to stand trial in March

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Kakwenza Rukirabashaija

Ugandan court on Monday ordered a prominent author to stand trial next month on charges of insulting President Yoweri Museveni and his son.

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was detained shortly after Christmas and later charged with “offensive communication” in a case that has raised international concern.

The 33-year-old satirical novelist says he was tortured in custody and appeared on television at the weekend to reveal painful-looking welts criss-crossed on his back and scars on other parts of his body.

“They beat me with batons, everywhere. You collapse they beat you, you get up, you go into unconsciousness,” he said in the interview with NTV Uganda broadcast on Saturday.

Chief magistrate Douglas Singiza announced a trial date of March 23 but refused to relax Rukirabashaija’s bail conditions set at a January hearing, which include an order not to speak to journalists.

Singiza warned the author — who stood in the dock in a business suit at Monday’s session — that speaking to the media about his case “exerts unnecessary pressure on this court”.

The charges against him relate to unflattering comments on Twitter about Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, and his powerful son Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

In one post, he described Kainerugaba, a general who many Ugandans believe is positioning himself to take over from his 77-year-old father, as “obese” and a “curmudgeon”.

In Saturday’s television interview — carried out despite the bail conditions — the author described being forced to dance without rest for days alongside other prisoners.

Describing a technique other Ugandan dissidents claim has been used against them, Rukirabashaija also said tools were used to torture him.

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