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‘Tortured’ pop star MP Bobi Wine freed

A judge in Uganda has granted bail to popular musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine and 32 opposition politicians who are facing treason charges.

Bobi Wine has been transferred from military custody to prison
Bobi Wine has appeared unsteady and in need of support during his court appearances

They are accused of allegedly throwing stones at a vehicle in President Yoweri Museveni’s convoy earlier this month.

Bobi Wine, affectionately known as the “ghetto president”, appeared on crutches in court. The army, who had detained him, denied reports that he had been beaten, calling the allegations “rubbish”.

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was arrested on 13 August after a campaign rally in the north-western town of Arua.

The winner of that by-election, Bobi Wine ally Kassiano Wadri, also appeared in court on treason charges.

He was also granted bail but was banned from visiting his constituency for three months without the permission of the court.

There was a brief commotion in court when one of the accused, a 51-year-old man, fainted and had to be carried away in the packed courtroom, reports the BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga from Uganda.

What led to the treason charges?

Before being arrested, Bobi Wine tweeted a gruesome picture of his driver, who he said had been shot dead by police thinking it was him.

AFP Image caption Protesters have taken to the streets of the capital, Kampala, calling for Bobi Wine's release
Protesters took to the streets of the capital, Kampala, calling for Bobi Wine’s release

Bobi Wine’s lawyers said he had been tortured and beaten while in custody and could not walk or talk. The claims were rejected by the government, including by Mr Museveni.

Bobi Wine, and the other 33 accused, are expected back in court on 30 August.

Who is Bobi Wine?

The Afrobeats star has been a thorn in the side of Mr Museveni’s government. Since his election just over a year ago, he has backed candidates in three by-elections who have beaten those from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), including in Arua.

A fan waves Bobi Wine's poster during the Kyadondo by-elections
A fan waves Bobi Wine’s poster during the Kyadondo by-elections

He was also a leading campaigner against the move to scrap the presidential age limit – set at 75 – which would have locked out the 74-year-old Mr Museveni’s bid to run for a sixth term in 2021.

Wine also joined local activists in July to protest against a social media tax introduced ostensibly to boost state revenue and to end what Mr Museveni called “gossip” on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.

Critics, however, said the 200 Uganda shillings ($0.05, £0.04) daily tax was meant to suppress dissenting voices. The government has since backtracked and said it will review the tax. BBC News

Bobi Wine’s rise to fame

  • Born four years before Yoweri Museveni became president
  • Describes his music as “edutainment” – entertainment that educates
  • One of his earliest hits, Kadingo, was about personal hygiene
  • Even after becoming famous, kept his recording studio in Kamwokya slum
  • Nicknamed “the ghetto president”
  • He and his wife have backed education and sanitation projects
  • Became MP for Kyadondo East in June 2017
  • Led a campaign against a social media tax
  • Charged with treason August 2018.