Nicholas Opiyo, Bobi Wine’s Lawyer, Arrested By Dictator Museveni in Uganda

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Leading human rights lawyer Opiyo, arrested by dictator Museveni regime. Photo: Twitter.

 

Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni’s security forces have arrested a prominent human rights lawyer who also represents leading presidential candidate Bobi Wine. The lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo has represented many victims of violence and brutality by the Museveni regime’s security forces, in addition to Bobi Wine.

Opiyo is the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, a Human rights organization based in Kampala. He  was forcibly pulled out of a restaurant, together with three other lawyers, according to a tweet by Bobi Wine. The other lawyers are Herbert Dakasi, Anthony Odur, and Esomu Obure. 

Bob Wine posted the following message on his Facebook page: “Distinguished human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo has been abducted from a restaurant in Kamwokya. He was abducted with other human rights lawyers who are involved in investigating and collecting evidence of the murders that occurred between 18th and 19th November, 2020 by security. According to eye witnesses, they were thrown into a van with tinted glasses, bearing private number plates. At this point, we suspect that their abduction is intended to frustrate the ongoing investigation of gross human rights abuses. Our legal teams have embarked on the process of establishing their whereabouts. The regime is in total panic. And yes, the empire is crumbling. #WeAreRemovingADictator.” 

The regime claims Opiyo was arrested for “money laundering.” 

Many observers believe the regime is trying to fabricate a case against Opiyo to keep him either in detention or tied up in the courts, heading into the January 14 presidential election. Opiyo’s client Bobi Wine has been attracting tens of thousands of supporters at his campaign events around the country, and some political analysts believe he will defeat Museveni, who has ruled since seizing power in 1986.

The men were arrested by plain clothes agents attached to Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), who were armed to teeth. They were handcuffed and bundled into waiting tinted vans with private number plates.

Opiyo is a prominent lawyer who has won several international awards for his advocacy on behalf of victims of regime violence. Chapter Four and several other organizations have condemned the killings of opposition candidates’ supporters, and escalating repression, as the country heads into elections. 

Opiyo also recently condemned the Museveni regime’s attempts to stifle the opposition’s abilities to disseminate their messages via social media. After the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) wrote to Google Inc. on Dec. 9, asking the giant tech company to block certain YouTube channels that livestream Bobi Wine’s campaign events, Opiyo tweeted on Dec. 20: “In the coming days, I will be writing to the tech giants @Facebook & @Google about this letter from @UCC_official urging them to disregard it for lack of premise, abuse of due process & curtailment of human rights in the context of political campaigns.” 

“I just met @NickOpiyo & was impressed by his commitment to rule of law & to uplifting his fellow citizens,” Natalie E. Brown, the U.S. ambassador to Uganda, said via a tweet. “News of his arrest is troubling & I call on the Ugandan Government to ensure his safety and wellbeing. Civil society must be able to carry out its essential role in #Uganda.”

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch tweeted: “Deeply disturbing: As elections approach next month, Ugandan authorities detain leading human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo… He pulled no punches in challenging Pres Museveni’s oppressive government and regularly described abuses to the media.” 

Dr. Kizza Besigye, a prominent opposition leader whom many believe defeated Museveni in possibly three of the last elections, and the Uganda Law Society, condemned the arrest.

Sources from security circles indicate that he was allegedly arrested after the Financial Intelligence Authority discovered significant amount of funds in Opiyo’s bank accounts. This comes after the Museveni regime recently seized the accounts of most civil society organizations operating in Uganda. The Gen. Museveni regime claims the organizations support “terrorism.” 

Opiyo, together with the other arrested lawyers were not allowed access to their family and lawyers, in violation of their constitutionally guaranteed rights. 


The writer can be reached via kakwenzarukirabashaija@gmail.com

 


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