KAMPALA, 2 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who is charged with treason and rape, was freed on bail on Monday after the High Court in Kampala ruled that his continued detention was illegal.
"The accused should be released forthwith unless he is being held on other charges," John Katutsi, the High Court judge, said.
He said the defence's argument that Besigye faced separate terrorism and possession of weapons charges before a military tribunal could not be used as an excuse to keep him in prison.
Besigye, 49, was released soon after the woman he allegedly raped in 1997 testified against him.
He was driven out of the court compound accompanied by his wife, Winnie, as a crowd of his supporters ululated and sang in his praise. The police had earlier used tear gas to disperse a crowd that tried to gather outside the court house.
Besigye, who heads the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, is widely seen as President Yoweri Museveni's main challenger in presidential elections scheduled for February.
Besigye, Museveni's former doctor, was arrested in mid-November three weeks after returning to Uganda from four years of self-imposed exile in South Africa where he fled after losing the presidential elections to Museveni in 2001. He claimed then that his life was in danger.