Award-winning Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has been charged with two counts of “offensive communication” after making unflattering remarks about the president and his son on Twitter.
The prosecution alleged that he had “used his Twitter handle to disturb the peace” of President Yoweri Museveni and his son Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
Mr Rukirabashaija pleaded not guilty to the charges, local media report.
He had tweeted that Lt-Gen Muhoozi was “obese” and a “curmudgeon”.
The author had also tweeted that “the Musevenis have imposed enormous suffering on this country”.
President Museveni, 77, has been in power in Uganda since 1986, and there has long been speculation that he was grooming his son – a powerful figure in the military – to succeed him.
Kakwenza Rukirabashaija is best known for The Greedy Barbarian, a satirical novel which describes high-level corruption in a fictional country, and Banana Republic: Where Writing is Treasonous, an account of the torture he was subjected to while in detention in 2020.
Last year, he won the Pen Pinter Prize for an international writer of courage.
Local opposition parties and civil society groups – along with the United States and the European Union – have been calling for the writer’s release since his detention on 28 December.
On Tuesday, Mr Rukirabashaija appeared in court in the capital, Kampala, for the first time since he was detained.
His lawyer, Eron Kiiza, told the magistrate that the 33-year-old author’s health was failing.
Mr Kiiza had previously alleged that Mr Rukirabashaija had been tortured in detention.
The author has been charged with two counts of “offensive communication” under the Computer Misuse Act.
The prosecution alleged that Mr Rukirabashaija had “wilfully and repeatedly used his Twitter handle to disturb the peace of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda, Gen Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, with no purpose of legitimate communication”.
He is facing a similar charge in relation to the president’s son.
If convicted, Mr Rukirabashaija could be imprisoned for up to a year, according to Reuters news agency.
The magistrate remanded Mr Rukirabashaija in custody, and the case was postponed until 21 January.