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Ugandan court issues arrest warrant for author who fled to Germany

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija reads the book at his home in Iganga district in Eastern Uganda, May 11, 2020. [Reuters]

A Ugandan court on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for an international award-winning author who fled to Germany last month to seek treatment for injuries he said were inflicted on him during torture by security personnel, his lawyer said.

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was arrested at the end of December and held for almost a month before he was charged with communications offences related to tweets that criticised President Yoweri Museveni and his son.

"It is true the court has issued an arrest warrant for him," his lawyer Eron Kiiza told Reuters.

"It's just a continuation of his harassment, because the court could have chosen to try him in his absentia, which is allowed, but they decided to ignore that option."

After his release in January Rukirabashaija said he had been tortured by security personnel while in detention. Images of his body showed torture marks, which provoked public outrage.

He told local broadcaster NTV that he was punched in the stomach, kicked, hit with gun butts and made to dance endlessly, and that his torturers used pliers to tear pieces of flesh from parts of his body.

Police have said they cannot comment on the torture allegations since they were part of Rukirabashaija's court case.

On Feb. 9 he announced he had fled the country, eventually arriving in Germany where he said he would seek treatment.

Rukirabashaija is a satirist who found fame with his novel "Greedy Barbarian", which criticises corruption and political oppression in a fictional country. In Uganda the book was widely interpreted to be a shot at Museveni's government.

Last year he won the PEN Pinter Prize for international writers of courage. He is the second Museveni critic to flee Uganda this year after Stella Nyanzi, a university lecturer and author also announced in January she had fled to Germany.