KAMPALA (Reuters) - A Ugandan general arrested after criticizing President Yoweri Museveni and voicing support for the opposition was charged in a military court on Tuesday and sent to a maximum security prison, according to his lawyer.
Museveni aims to extend his 30-year-old rule and is facing perhaps his toughest challenge yet ahead of an election on Feb. 18 which pits him against veteran opposition leader Kizza Besigye and his ally-turned-rival, Amama Mbabazi.
Human rights groups have accused the government of using state security to stifle criticism in the east African state and intimidate Museveni’s rivals, charges the government denies.
General David Sejusa, 61, was charged with being absent from the army without official leave and participating in politics in violation of army laws, Ladislas Rwakafuzi, one of his lawyers, told Reuters on Tuesday.
“He pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was remanded. He will be brought back to court on (Feb. 9),” Rwakafuzi said.
Sejusa, who has been detained at a military facility since his arrest early on Sunday, was sent to Luzira maximum security prison on the outskirts of Kampala, after being charged.
In 2013, Sejusa angered the government by alleging a government plot to kill officials opposed to a plan by Museveni to hand power to his son, Kainerugaba Muhoozi, a brigadier in the Ugandan military.
Sejusa fled to Britain after making those allegations and while there also alleged that Uganda’s 2006 elections were rigged in favor of Museveni.
Sejusa was allowed to return to Uganda in December 2014 in what analysts said was a move by Museveni to prevent cracks in the military.
Since his return, the general has expressed frustration at the army’s apparent delay in retiring him despite persistent pleas, and maintained frequent criticism of the government.
Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Mark Heinrich