Human Rights lawyer and Executive Director of Chapter Four Uganda, Nicholas Opiyo, has dismissed reports claiming he fled to exile in the United States fearing for his safety in Uganda.
On Monday night, Opiyo announced that he left the country and taken residence at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy in the United States of America (USA). Opiyo’s departure, however, sparked speculation that he had fled Uganda, banking on earlier reports, which suggested that he was seeking asylum in the USA.
Opiyo dismissed the rumor reffering to the reports as ridiculous, absurd and contrary to common sense.
“I came to Havard under less than ideal circumstances and soon after charges against me were withdrawn. But to suggest, as some have, that I have run away, “fled the country, or seeking asylum” is prepostereous. Please regard them as falsehoods and I will return home after my Fellowship.” Opiyo posted today on Twitter.
Earlier, Opiyo had however noted that his trip came at a time when he needed rest and respite following a difficult end of 2020 and tumultuous 2021 which saw him incarcetated in detention and questioned on suspected criminal charges.
Opiyo had been accused of fraudulently receiving a sum of USD 340,000 (1.2 billion Shillings) through the Chapter Four Uganda account in Stanbic Bank. The state said that the money was proceeds of crime and was subsequently arraigned before the courts and remanded to Kitalya Prison.
His detention and subsequent court arraignment attracted wide public attention and condemnation from international organizations who petceived the process as state persecution.
The State then froze Chapter Four Uganda’s bank accounts on allegations of funding terrorism, before closing the organisation together with 53 other non-governmental organizations for alleged failure to comply with regulations governing their operations.
A lawyer, Opiyo has been actively involved in human rights activism and push for rule of law, as well as offering free legal aid service to opposition politicians in various cases. This, at times, pitted him against the state. Some of the politicians he has supported include Robert Kyagulanyi and Dr Stella Nyanzi among others.
A few weeks ago, the charges against Opiyo were suspended by the court.
According to the shortlist from Havard, Opiyo was selected by a commitee of 5 unnamed human rights experts, along with other 11 individual human rights defenders and entities, to enrol for Human Rights Tulip 2021 at Havard.
Others are; Gamal Eid – Egypt, Oleksandra Matviychuk – Ukraine,
Reporters Sans Frontièrs (RSF), Angelina Very – South Sudan, Human Rights Centre Viasna – Belarus, Felix Nkongho – Cameroon, Marie Davtyan – Russia, Nadeen Ashraf – Egypt, Colectivo Nicaragua Nunca Mas, Flaviano Lopez Villanueva – Philippines, and Acción Solidaria from Venezuela.
The document states that candidates were selected because of the innovative, creative ways in which nominees did work to defend human rights, the courage they demonstrate doing this work under difficult circumstances, and the positive impact their work has on their community and their country.
“Let’s resharpen the tools for the work ahead. #WewillBeback better and resolved” Opiyo posted in a tweet on Tuesday.