By Halima Athumani
KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) - Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye expressed fears for his life during an appearance in court in the Ugandan capital of Kampala where he was formally charged with treason Wednesday.
Besigye, who is a founding member of the Forum for Democratic Change party, has been facing the government’s wrath ever since he declared himself as president in protest against the fresh reelection of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
The prosecution accused Besigye of "unlawfully swearing himself in as president, demanding for an independent audit of the election results, mobilizing masses to attend his swearing in and declaring himself president," which according to the state constitutes treason.
Besigye was informally booked on the same charges at the Moroto prison, some 458.5 kilometers (284.9 miles) from Kampala, on May 11, a day before Museveni’s swearing in ceremony.
He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or death if found guilty.
Besigye earlier rejected the court’s offer to grant him legal presentation.
"I am being mistreated by the police and the prison officials in the various detention areas I have been at and right now I fear for my life in Luzira [detention center], it's not safe for me," he said.
However, Magistrate James Mawanda told the opposition figure to raise the issue with prison authorities.
Roads leading to the court premises were blocked and heavily guarded by army and police personnel.
Besigye is expected to reappear before the court on June 1, 2016.
The international community, particularly the U.S. has been critical of Museveni's election win and the ongoing events in the country, including the recent shutdown of social media, crackdown on protesters and the lack of free expression, especially for the opposition politicians in the country.
This is the second time Besigye has been charged with treason. In 2005, he was also charged with the same offense which he allegedly committed between 2001 and 2004 after his return from a four-year exile in South Africa; the treason charge was later dismissed.