KAMPALA Ugandan music star and opposition lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, is free on bail following his arrest earlier this week. The popular singer had been jailed for taking part in antigovernment protests, and will have to return to court to face those charges later this month.
Wine appeared in court Thursday through a video link from a maximum-security prison.
Roads leading to the Buganda Road magistrate court were heavily guarded by both the military and police personnel.
Inside the packed courtroom, there were 10 lawyers representing Wine in a session that lasted close to five hours. The opposition politician faces charges of unlawfully taking part in a protest against the Mobile Money and social media tax in 2018. The government says the protest violated some sections of the Public Order Management Act 2013.
Before making her decision, the magistrate agreed to Wine's request to address the court through a video link from prison.
And Your Honor, if standing for what is right, if standing for truth is going to earn me my freedom, I will thank God for it, Wine said. But Your Honor, if standing for what is right is going to keep me in this prison, then I will thank God even louder. After all, I have a lot of work to do even here in prison.
No right to bail
The state prosecutor urged the court to deny Wine's bail for security reasons and argued the politician doesn't have a constitutional right to bail.
After adjourning for an hour, magistrate Esther Nahilya Grade granted Wine's request to be released on bail, but with key conditions.
"The applicant is barred from engaging in unlawful demonstrations, Nahilya said. In the event that this condition is breached, it shall lead to automatic lapse of his bail.
After the decision, the court broke out singing one of Wine's songs, which describes how when the struggle is over, people will wear shining crowns.
President Yoweri Museveni has accused social media of spreading what he says is gossip and fake news.
A former close confidant to the Ugandan president, Miria Matembe, explains why she chose to stand surety for Wine.
I have seen honorable Kyagulanyi being tortured, being brutalized, all for standing out for truth, Matembe said. Our president loves power so much, as a matter of life and death. Therefore, when he see's anybody whom he thinks can shake his position as a president, he gets scared.
Wine's lawyer cautioned his release may be temporary.
"Many bizarre things are happening in this country, Basalirwa said. There's total abuse, there's total impunity, break down of rule of law in the country. So, we will not be surprised if he's rearrested. Of course, the issue is who determines the unlawfulness of a demonstration. If it is this police of ours, then Bobi Wine will never be free in this country."
Wine returns to court on May 23.
Source: Voice of America