* Lawyer says Besigye unable to see or talk
* Aides arrive at court in blood spattered shirts
* Besigye defeated by Museveni in three elections
* U.S. troubled by Besigye's treatment
(Adds U.S. comment, paragraphs 11-13)
By Barry Malone and Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA, April 28 Ugandan opposition leader
Kizza Besigye was dragged from his car at gunpoint by police on
Thursday and thrown into a pickup truck during a fifth round of
protests against high food and fuel prices.
Besigye later appeared in court, slumped forward in his
chair, his ear bandaged and eyes covered with tissues. Besigye
was repeatedly sprayed with pepper gas by plainclothes police
as they tried to remove the opposition leader from his car.
Besigye's lawyer David Mpanga said he was unable to make a
plea because he could neither open his eyes nor talk. The judge
concluded he was not in good health, adjourned the case until
May 2 without reading out charges, and released him on bail.
This is the fourth time in three weeks that Besigye,
runner-up to veteran President Yoweri Museveni in a disputed
February election, has been detained by police over the
protests that have killed at least five.
The campaign, dubbed "walk to work," calls on Ugandans to
leave their cars at home and walk to work to highlight the high
price of fuel and food.
Museveni, in power since 1986, blames drought for high food
costs and soaring oil prices for surging local fuel costs, and
has warned Besigye that his protests will not be tolerated.
"I want to see what level of irrationality they have
reached. They said walking is a protest. Is driving now also a
protest?" Besigye said from his car before he was arrested.
"We are not asking for a regime change ... People of Uganda
are expressing discontent with conditions in Uganda. Thing is,
I am not setting out to be a martyr, I'm simply asserting my
citizen's rights," he said.
Besigye, who has been defeated by Museveni in three
elections, was helped to his car from the court by opposition
officials as supporters sang: "We shall overcome."
"The most worrisome thing is his eyes. They are acutely
inflamed and it is difficult to assess them," Besigye's sister
Olive Kobsingye, who is a doctor, told reporters.
DRAGGED FROM CAR
In Washington, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa said he
called Uganda's foreign minister on Thursday to discuss
Besigye's apparent "harassment" and urged the government to act
in a "responsible and civil" manner toward the protesters.
"I urged political outreach and reconciliation to resolve
the differences ... I also encouraged that there be scope for
civil and peaceful protests," Assistant Secretary of State
Johnnie Carson told reporters, saying the foreign minister had
voiced hope Museveni would meet opposition leaders on Tuesday.
Besigye had initially tried to walk to work again in
protest at rising living costs, but was stopped by police at
his gate. He decided to drive, tailed by police and supporters,
before security forces blocked his car at a roundabout.
After a long standoff, plainclothes police smashed his car
window with a hammer but Besigye refused to leave. His
bodyguards were dragged from the vehicle and severely beaten.
A policeman smashed another window with a pistol and
pointed the gun at the opposition leader while a second man
drenched Besigye with pepper spray. He was eventually hauled
out, dragged along the road and tossed into a nearby pickup
"He was driving, but he eventually attracted a crowd which
he couldn't control and we tried to give him directions to take
another route but he defied these directives. We tried to
negotiate with him but he didn't budge," said Nabakoba.
"Police used reasonable force but investigations are
underway on any allegations of violence," she said.
After his arrest, police dispersed hundreds of Besigye
supporters gathered at the roundabout, firing teargas and
bullets, Reuters witnesses said.
Police said there were also protests in Masaka, a town
about 120 km (75 miles) from the capital. Local police
spokesman Noah Serujonji said protesters started burning tyres
and blocking roads but they were eventually dispersed.
Besigye was bailed from prison Wednesday after being
charged last Thursday with inciting public protests, and
immediately vowed to carry on with the campaign of twice-weekly
"walk to work" demonstrations.
He has been arrested during four of the five protests so
far. The only protest in which Besigye was not detained was
when he was taken to hospital for treatment on a hand he says
was hit by a rubber bullet.
"This is our president: Besigye. We call him 'Big'. 'Big is
big', we say. That is why they attack him. They attack him
because they fear him. But he comes back again and again to
face this government," said supporter Edward Semuwemba.
(Additional reporting by Justin Dralaze; Editing by David