, Kampala, Uganda, Dec 15 – A Ugandan tribal king and 151 others have been charged with treason for allegedly seeking to overthrow the government, their lawyer said Wednesday.
The Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere was arrested in late November during a violent police crackdown on his palace — from where he is accused of commanding a militia — which left at least 87 dead.
“The king was charged today (Wednesday) together with 151 people with treason,” Evans Ochieng a lawyer representing the group told AFP. The charge carries a possible death sentence.
“Definitely my clients including the king deny the charges. They are trumped up by the state” he said.
“The state claims my clients overtly or covertly uttered statements with political intentions to overthrow the government or promote their own political agenda.”
There were no further details of the charge, however the government has accused Mumbere of organising a militia from his palace with the aim of creating an independent state straddling Uganda and the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The traditional kingdom in western Uganda has a history of separatist leanings dating back to independence. The region where it is based is an opposition stronghold that has long complained of marginalisation from Kampala.
International rights groups condemned the crackdown by security forces on the palace, with Amnesty expressing alarm at what “appears to be shocking examples of unlawful killings and a complete disregard for human rights during the arrests”.
Mumbere is also facing charges of terrorism, aggravated robbery, attempted murder and murder.
Ochieng said some of his clients were unable to appear in court “because they have serious bullet wounds and yet they have been kept in police cells without medical attention”.
“It’s a concern that the rights of my clients… are being trampled upon by the state including not receiving medical attention and long days of detention,” he added.