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Uganda police fire on activists urging release of environmental protestors

[JURIST] Ugandan police fired on a Kampala press briefing held by political activists and opposition leaders on Tuesday, five days after violent protests caused the deaths of three people [BBC report]. Leaders of the Forum for Democratic Change [party website], the Democratic Party [party website], the Conservative Party [Wikipedia backgrounder] and the Justice Forum [Wikipedia backgrounder] held the briefing to call for the release of 27 people who were detained after the environmental protest, including two members of parliament. The demonstrators marched in opposition to a government plan to cut down 7,000 hectares of the Mabira Forest Reserve [backgrounder] and replace it with an Indian-owned sugarcane plantation, but the march soon turned to rioting and culminated in looting, an attack on a Hindu temple, and the death of a businessman of Indian descent.

Ugandan police have brought charges against 23 detainees; four face murder charges, while the rest are accused of conducting an illegal demonstration. President Yoweri Museveni [BBC profile] has defended the plans to raze the forest, saying that conservation is a luxury Uganda cannot afford. The Mabira forest has been a nature reserve since 1932 and contains rare species of plants and wildlife. AFP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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