Ugandan human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo was released on bail today after being held in prison for a week while he was denied access to a court that could hear his bail request. He was arrested Dec. 22 on money-laundering charges that he and his supporters termed frivolous.
Chapter Four, the human rights advocacy organization that Opiyo leads, highlighted a statement from High Court Judge Jane Okuo Kajuga, who set Opiyo’s bail at 15 million Ugandan shillings (about US $4,115):
“However serious a charge is, it all remains an allegation. Courts are expected not to deny bail as a punishment.”
Chapter Four stated that US $340,000 that police labeled “proceeds of crime” in their money-laundering charge were simply “a grant from one of Chapter Four’s reputable recurring and long-standing donors who legally support Chapter Four’s work of promoting and protecting human rights.”
That long-time donor has been identified as the New York-based American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which works “to advance sexual health and rights for women, girls and LGBTQI+ people” and promotes “civil and political rights to amplify the voices of poor and persecuted minorities.” In the words of homophobic journalism, that is interpreted as an “American homosexual rights organization”.
Opiyo and Chapter Four are longtime supporters of LGBTQ+ rights in Uganda. Opiyo also represents presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine), who seeks to unseat Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in next month’s election.
Numerous human rights organizations issued statements of support for Opiyo and called for his release using the hashtag #FreeNicholasOpiyo. The audience in the courtroom today included representatives of supportive foreign embassies.
Kajuga ordered Opiyo to surrender his passport and to report to the registrar of the Ugandan Anti-Corruption Division every two weeks, according to the New Vision newspaper.