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Ugandan officials rearrest writer after court gives him bail

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A prominent Ugandan author jailed for nearly a month was freed on bail Tuesday but then was quickly rearrested by authorities, according to his attorney.

It is not known where Kakwenza Rukirabashaija is being held, said defense lawyer Eron Kiiza.

Rukirabashaija, a writer of satirical fiction, won bail earlier on Tuesday following a court session in which he appeared before a magistrate via video conference. He was ordered not to publicly discuss details of his detention as a condition of his bail.

But it appears security officials then removed him from the maximum-security prison where he was being held. When Kiiza and others took court papers to the prison outside Kampala, the capital, they were told that the suspect had been driven away by people who looked like security officers, according to Kiiza. The court papers also were allegedly confiscated.

Rukirabashaija, who has been detained since Dec. 28, was charged earlier this month with two counts of “offensive communication” for his alleged efforts on Twitter to “disturb the peace” of President Yoweri Museveni and his son, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who commands the East African country’s infantry forces.

The writer’s trouble stemmed from a series of tweets in which he described Museveni as an election thief and first son Kainerugaba as an overweight and “intellectually bankrupt” soldier who hopes to succeed his father as president. The writer has been detained twice before over his work highlighting the failures of Museveni, Uganda’s leader since 1986.

The case has renewed focus on the alleged excesses of the security forces in enforcing Museveni’s authority.

Rukirabashaija's Twitter handle was disabled while he was in custody.

“No one has been able to see him who is looking for him,” Kiiza said. “He is in the hands of the military.”

The police, the prisons service, and the military did not immediately comment on the allegations.

Activists, opposition figures and others in Uganda and internationally had called for Rukirabashaija’s release amid reports he was tortured while in custody.

Natalie E. Brown, the U.S. ambassador to Uganda, said on Twitter she was “deeply concerned” by reports of Rukirabashaija's arrest after a court had ordered his release.

“In democratic societies, rule of law and judicial independence must be respected, especially by security agencies,” she said.

Rukirabashaija, 33, last year was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize for an international writer of courage. English PEN, a human rights organization for writers, has called for his release.

Rodney Muhumuza, The Associated Press

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