KAMPALA, UGANDA – Ugandan human rights activists are calling on authorities to release human rights attorney Nicholas Opio, who was arrested Tuesday on charges of money laundering. Supporters say Opio is being persecuted for being active.
A group of lawyers and activists went to the Ugandan Police Special Investigation Unit on Wednesday to request access to opio and ask the police to release it.
Opio, executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights organization, was arrested Tuesday along with two other colleagues in a restaurant in Kampala.
According to Chapter 4, Opio has collected evidence of the murders and arrests that took place during the two-day protests in Uganda on November 18.
Chaos erupts in Kampala after opposition leader Bobi Wine was arrested
The arrest came after police released a statement warning candidates of violations of COVID-19 guidelines
Fifty-six people were killed in clashes between opposition supporters and security forces after the arrest of the politician-turned singer Bobi Wine, leader of the National Unity Platform party.
Human rights lawyer Elone Kiiza says Opio is in a good mood. He doesn’t think Opio will be released in the usual 48 hours.
“You didn’t officially charge him,” said Opio. “You haven’t recorded his testimony yet. We will continue to monitor the situation in case you agree to bail him or indict him.”
Police spokesman Fred Enanga says the police and the Financial Intelligence Authority in Uganda observed Opio and had reasons for his arrest.
“It is known that it was Nicholas Opio, the lawyer [receiving] Resources from various sources. They are following up to see where this money is coming from in the first place, from the various sources, ”Enanga said. “And then also how it is channeled locally here. Which areas and people. So these are the lines of investigation that the joint task team is working on with the Financial Intelligence Unit.”
Otsieno Namwaya, director of Human Rights Watch East Africa, expressed concern about the recent arrests in Uganda, which could undermine the credibility of next month’s elections.
“The arrest is worrying, especially if the police don’t immediately accuse him of a crime and if they don’t have evidence they should unconditionally release him,” Namwaya said.
Recently, the Financial Intelligence Authority ordered that bank accounts be frozen for two non-governmental organizations that the FIA says are being used to finance terrorism in Uganda.
Both NGOs – the Uganda National NGO Forum and the Uganda Women’s Network – followed the election campaigns of various parties.