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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 18:35 GMT 19:35 UK
Trial warning for Idi Amin
Idi Amin
His wife would want Amin buried in Uganda

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has said that ailing former military leader Idi Amin will be tried for the crimes he committed against the people of Uganda if he survives and tries to return from exile.

The Ugandan political party he ousted in 1971 is among those calling for him to be allowed to return from Saudi Arabia to die in his homeland.

Idi Amin, whose 1971 to 1979 regime was one of the bloodiest in African history, reportedly remains in a coma after five days on a life support machine.

His wife and daughter left the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on Tuesday and are already in Saudi Arabia, according to the Ugandan Minister of the Presidency, Kirunda Kivejinja.

Mr Kivejinja said that the government facilitated the trip.

An international human rights group has voiced regret that he may die now at liberty instead of in prison.

"We regret that Idi Amin is dying without meeting justice for his crimes," said Reed Brody, director of special prosecutions at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

There are people in this government who... want to dance on Amin's grave
Henry Mayega
In the Ugandan capital, Kampala, an aide to President Yoweri Museveni said on Monday that any Ugandan had the right to return to his homeland.

"All Ugandans can return, including Amin," John Nagenda told Reuters news agency.

"However if they return, they will be subject to the full force of the law."

The aide added that President Museveni had the right to pardon the former leader - but after his conviction.

'Escaping justice'

Mr Amin, 78, was said on Tuesday to be still in a critical condition in one of Saudi Arabia's top medical centres in the port city of Jeddah.

A hospital source told the AFP news agency that his condition had had not improved and that he remained in a coma and on a life support machine in the intensive care unit.

It is amazing how a human catastrophe like Idi Amin has been protected in Saudi Arabia despite his crimes against humanity
Ed Edet, NIgeria/USA

He has lived in Saudi Arabia with his entourage for more than 10 years after spending almost a decade in Libya following his overthrow in 1979.

HRW said that while it was "increasingly possible to prosecute dictators outside their home countries... the trend didn't catch up with Mr Amin in time".

The Ugandan People's Congress (UPC), which is now in opposition, has said the government has a responsibility to look after Mr Amin as a Ugandan citizen and former head of state.

"There are people in this government who... want to dance on Amin's grave," UPC official Henry Mayega told Reuters.

"The government's job is to look after Ugandans, which is not the case here."

'Decent burial'

One of Mr Amin's several wives, Madina, has confirmed that the family has asked the Ugandan Government for permission to bring his body home if he dies.

The former leader, she said, had suffered from hypertension for some time and fell into the coma on Friday.

Ugandan Asians arrive in the UK

Mr Amin has not been back to Uganda since he was ousted by Tanzanian troops and Ugandan exiles.

The BBC's Will Ross reports from Kampala that deep wounds remain even 24 years after he fled the country.

He says those who are old enough will never forget the nature of Idi Amin's eight-year dictatorial rule when Ugandans were gripped by a climate of fear.

Up to 400,000 people are estimated to have died during his time in office or are still unaccounted for.

Under Mr Amin, Asians in Uganda who dominated business in the country were given 90 days to leave the country, as he embarked on a programme to Africanise the economy.

Many fled to the United Kingdom.

He confiscated all their properties, which he distributed to his cronies, who later ran them down.

A whole generation of Ugandan intellectuals were either killed for questioning the regime or fled into exile.

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