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Last Updated: Monday, 5 March 2007, 12:40 GMT
Uganda's judges strike over raid
Ugandan lawyers (File picture)
Lawyers see the raid as a violation of the judiciary's independence
Judges and lawyers in Uganda are on strike to protest at the recent raid on the High Court by armed forces.

They want a government apology for what they see as an attack on the independence of Uganda's judiciary.

Last week, security agents stormed into the court area to arrest six treason suspects who had been granted bail.

Two years ago, operations at the court were halted after a siege by a military unit during a case against opposition leader Kizza Besigye.

'Unwarranted concern'

A statement by the judges - who say they will strike for a week - said organs of the government have repeatedly disregarded the authority of the judiciary by ignoring its directives.

Kizza Besigye
Dr Besigye still faces treason charges

The BBC's Ali Mutasa in the capital, Kampala, says the judges are equally concerned about their freedom and independence.

But Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has said the decision by the judges and lawyers to go on strike is unwarranted.

"The government is investigating the matter and appropriate action will be taken after the results," he said.

On Thursday, armed security officers forced their way into the High Court's criminal registry and bundled the suspects into waiting vehicles.

The suspects are alleged members of the People's Redemption Army (PRA) accused of plotting a coup.

The government has often linked Dr Besigye's name to the PRA, a rebel group that was allegedly based in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dr Besigye, who was charged with treason and rape in the run-up to presidential polls last year, has denied any link with the group.

He lost the election and still faces charges of treason in the High Court, but was cleared of the rape charge last year.

Former allies

The International Commission of Jurists has condemned the incident and urged Uganda to respect the independence and freedom of the judiciary.

In 2005, as suspects charged with treason along with Dr Besigye were granted bail at the High Court, a group of heavily armed military men, since tagged the "Black Mambas Urban Hit Squad", surrounded the building.

Fearing the armed men, they opted to return to prison.

Mr Museveni has ruled Uganda for 20 years and had been seen as part of a "new generation" of African leaders.

But he was criticised for changing the constitution to enable him to stand in last year's polls. He received 59%, against 37% for Dr Besigye.

Dr Besigye used to be Mr Museveni's personal doctor and the two men were allies in the guerrilla war which brought Mr Museveni to power.

After the pair later fell out, Dr Besigye stood against Mr Museveni in 2001 as well as last year.

After losing the 2001 poll, Dr Besigye fled Uganda, saying he feared for his life, and only returned in 2005.


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