KAMPALA - Ugandan opposition leader and presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, known by his stage name, Bobi Wine, has been released on bail but charged with violating COVID-19 guidelines for holding mass rallies.
"Bobi has been released on bail and we are here at the court waiting for him to leave the court and probably head home," said David Rubongoya, secretary general of Wine's National Unity Platform party. "There's a lot of security deployment, we don't know what will happen, but he's free."
Police arrested Wine on Wednesday while he was campaigning in eastern Uganda for January's presidential election.
His arrest sparked protests by supporters across the country, leading to hundreds of arrests and a rising death toll in clashes with security.
Uganda Police pathologist Moses Byaruhanga said most of the dead had gunshot wounds.
"We had cases of traumatic injuries, accidents, we had firearm injuries. As of today, total number is 37 - four females, 33 males," Byaruhanga said.
Uganda's security minister and a police spokesman said the protesters were violent, targeted government supporters, and were believed to be armed.
Critics note Ugandan police and plain-clothed security were quick to use live ammunition against the protesters.
Human Rights Watch said Friday that Wine's arrest shows Ugandan authorities are using COVID-19 as an excuse to clamp down on the opposition ahead of January's election.
Human Rights Watch Africa researcher Oryem Nyeko said the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party's campaigns also attract large crowds, which security forces have allowed.
"It's a pretext, they've just used it as an excuse to clamp down and violate rights," Nyeko said. "Particularly, now in this case on the opposition. Otherwise, we would see a balance of the implementation of those regulations. We are not seeing arrests at NRM processions."
At a campaign rally Thursday, President Yoweri Museveni said protesters are being used by outsiders who are against Uganda's stability and independence.
Museveni, who has been in power for 34 years, did not elaborate and offered no evidence.
Wine's case resumes in court in December.