KAMPALA – A Ugandan court has charged human rights lawyer Nicholas Opio with money laundering after his arrest on Tuesday. Opio lawyers say the charge is political because it supports opposition leader and presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine.
The state claims Nicholas Opio bought $ 340,000 on October 8 from a branch of Absa Bank in Kampala on behalf of the human rights organization Chapter Four. The prosecutor said at the time that he knew that the money was proceeds from crime.
“This court does not have jurisdiction to deal with this matter. The judge just read him the charges and took him to Kitalya prison by Monday next week, “says Solomon Muyita, the judiciary’s spokesman. His file is to be forwarded to the anti-corruption court. This is where the matter will be dealt with in the future. ”
Two of Opio’s colleagues who were arrested with him were released on bail.
Opio attorney Eron Kiiza says the government only needs a charge to detain Opio, but that has nothing to do with his job.
“You are harassing him about his perceived support for Bobi Wine. It’s not money laundering; You know his books. They searched his house and found nothing, ”he said.
Activists say the state criminalizes the work of civil society and persecutes civil society organizations and individual leaders.
Uganda police spokesman Fred Enanga says these allegations are baseless and should allow an investigation to prove his innocence or guilt.
“There is no activist above the law. If they are involved in suspicious activity, we need to investigate them to refute or prove some of these claims, ”he said.
Opio, the chief executive of Chapter Four Uganda, was arrested by plainclothes police in a restaurant Tuesday evening.
According to Chapter 4, at the time of his arrest, Opio was working to gather evidence of the murders and arrests that followed protests on November 18-19.
The protests sparked by Wine’s arrest led to clashes between security forces and supporters of the opposition. Fifty-six people were killed.