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Uganda opposition leader arrested for incitement over 'Walk to Work' protests

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye [JURIST news archive] was arrested Monday in connection with protests against increasing food and fuel costs. Bloomberg reports Besigye was detained during the protest [Bloomberg report], while Al Jazeera reports Besigye was arrested on his way to the protest [Al Jazeera report]. Besigye has been charged with rioting and inciting violence, but was released on bail pending a court hearing. He must appear again in court [NewVision report] on May 18. This is the third time that Besigye has been arrested in the last week in connection with protests—he was also arrested on April 11 [BBC report] and April 14 [AP report]. During the April 14 arrest Besigye was shot in the hand by a police officer. The protests at issue have been labeled the "Walk to Work" protests [VOA report], because participants refrain from taking motor vehicles to show their discontent over high fuel prices. Ugandan police reportedly resorted to using teargas to control the protesters [AFP report], who were throwing stones at people in cars on Monday.

Besigye is the leader of the Uganda's most prominent opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change [official website]. He lost to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni [BBC profile] in elections held this past February. The elections were criticized by the opposition as fraudulent [Guardian report]. Besigye also ran for president [BBC report] in 2002 and 2006, and, prior to that, he was Museveni's personal doctor. In October 2010, Uganda's Constitutional Court unanimously dismissed treason charges [JURIST report] against Besigye and 10 co-defendants, ruling that there was insufficient evidence and that the state had violated the defendants' rights. Besigye had been charged [JURIST report] with plotting to forcefully overthrow the Ugandan government between 2001 and 2004 but had always maintained his innocence, calling the charges against him politically motivated.

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