Bobi Wine ‘blocked’ from leaving for torture treatment

A Ugandan pop star-turned-opposition legislator has been blocked from leaving for the United States for treatment on his injuries from alleged torture, his lawyers said.

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was stopped while trying to board a flight at Entebbe airport on Thursday and police did not explain why, lawyer Asuman Basalirwa told The Associated Press.

He was then checked into a hospital in the capital, Kampala, in a “worrying condition”, said Basalirwa.

INSIDE STORY: What’s behind the recent political unrest in Uganda?

Another lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, said on Twitter that police “violently abducted” Ssentamu and put him into a police ambulance.

Any doctor who treats the singer without his consent is violating his or her oath and “will be personally pursued”, he added. 

Ssentamu’s wife, Barbara, said in a Facebook post that security forces “manhandled” her husband, who “groaned in pain” as he shouted for help.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 36-year-old was freed on bail on Monday but faced no travel restrictions after he and more than 30 other legislators were arrested over an incident in which the president’s motorcade was pelted with stones and Ssentamu’s driver was shot dead.

A lawyer for the singer called the charge false.

The police action escalated a political dispute between the government of longtime President Yoweri Museveni and a youthful generation that fears he intends to rule for life after 32 years in power.

Ssentamu emerged as a powerful opposition voice among youth frustrated by Museveni, especially after the constitution was changed last year to remove an age limit on the presidency. 

The singer won a parliament seat last year without the backing of a political party.

Dozens of global musicians including Chris Martin, Angelique Kidjo and Brian Eno last week issued an open letter condemning the treatment of Ssentamu, who in his first public appearance after his arrest had to walk with support and appeared to cry.

Earlier on Thursday, another legislator, Francis Zaake, was barred from boarding a plane to India, with authorities saying he was a suspect in a criminal case.

Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said on Twitter that Zaake, who has not been charged with any crime, escaped police custody “and should be arrested at the earliest”.

After the outcry over Ssentamu’s treatment at the airport, Opondo said both he and Zaake can travel “after government doctors have examined them to ascertain their medical conditions”.

Both men had been hospitalised with serious injuries they said they sustained at the hands of security forces during detention.

The speaker of Uganda’s parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, in a letter to Museveni this week described Zaake as “gravely ill” and said Ssentamu “has visible signs of torture and beatings”.

The government has denied the allegations of torture.

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