Security agencies in Uganda have arrested a prominent human rights lawyer for alleged money laundering.
Nicholas Opiyo, known for representing LGBTQ + people, was arrested at a restaurant in the capital, Kampala, on Tuesday by plainclothes security and financial intelligence officials.
Opiyo, executive director of the human rights organization Chapter Four Uganda, was arrested along with three other lawyers – Herbert Dakasi, Anthony Odur and Esomu Obure – and Hamid Tenywa, human rights officer at Bobi Wine’s opposition party, National Unity Platform ( NUP).
Uganda Police tweeted that Opiyo had been arrested on charges of money laundering and “related malicious acts”.
“Investigations are progressing well and any new developments will be communicated in due course. He remains in our custody in the special investigations division, ”said the tweet.
Opiyo’s arrest comes just a week after he represents two NGOs – Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Women’s Network – whose accounts have been frozen by security forces due to allegations of terrorism.
In a statement, the Ugandan Chapter Four council said: “We condemn this brutal kidnapping and call on our colleagues and partners to condemn the arbitrary violation of their personal freedom, incommunicado detention and call for their immediate and unconditional release.”
Wine, who is running for president in next month’s election, tweeted: “In total disregard for the law, the human rights lawyer @nickopiyo and the team were denied access to lawyers, family members and medical personnel yesterday! Nicholas’s daily work involves trying to guarantee freedom for detained activists in the circumstances in which he is now detained. #FreeNicholasOpiyo. “
Natalie Brown, US Ambassador to Uganda, called the “worrying” prison. “Civil society must be able to fulfill its essential role in Uganda.”
Sarah Kihika Kasande, head of the office of the International Center for Transitional Justice, said the money laundering allegations were unfounded, adding: “They should have summoned you to the police to file a statement. Instead, he was violently arrested and incommunicado detained.
“They did not allow their family or lawyers to access it, violating their constitutional rights. This attack on human rights defenders demonstrates a panicked regime. “
Opiyo, winner of the Alison Des Forges award for extraordinary activism in 2015, has worked tirelessly since 2005 to defend civil liberties in Uganda, often free of charge and on behalf of society’s most vulnerable and marginalized.
He faced verbal attacks and even death threats for defending LGBTQ + rights in Uganda.