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Ugandan journalist freed after detention

A Ugandan journalist abducted last week after covering the death of a Finnish consultant has been released, according to his employer the New Vision newspaper.

Kuvakaappaus newvision.co.ug -nettisivustolta.
Ugandan journalist Charles Etukuri returns to New Vision offices on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of New Vision. Image: www.newvision.co.ug

The editor of New Vision, Felix Osike, confirmed to Yle that the paper's journalist Charles Etukuri had been freed without charges. The paper reports that Etukuri had been taken away from the New Vision offices during his lunch break last Tuesday.

The paper reported that its journalist, Charles Etukuri, was taken away from the newspaper's offices by Internal Security Organisation (ISO) operatives on Tuesday, 13 February, due to a story he wrote about the death of a Finnish national at a Kampala hotel, according to Etukuri himself.

The article in question had been published on February 9, in which Etukuri recounted details surrounding the death of a Finnish businessman in a Kampala hotel earlier in the month. He reported the businessman had travelled to Uganda with former Finnish minister Suvi Lindén and that the businessman had entered the country with a forged letter of invitation.

Course of events

The businessman had acted as an independent consultant and was in Uganda promoting the products of Finnish defence contractor Patria. He was found dead in his hotel room in Kampala on 6 February and the cause of his death remains unknown.

The Finn's remains have since been returned to Finland, where an autopsy will be performed.

Etukuri was released on Monday evening after being held for nearly a week by ISO operatives, according to New Vision.

It was reported on Friday that two high-ranking Patria executives resigned in the wake of the man's death.

Journalist was "dumped in a garage"

“They handcuffed me, pushed me into their waiting car and blindfolded me. They then drove around for about one hour, before dumping me in a garage. They removed the blindfold but left me handcuffed,” Etukuri is quoted in New Vision.

He said that the security officials believed that he had been "deeply involved" in the Finnish businessman's death. Etukuri told the paper that an officer had demanded that he reveal his sources and to explain his involvement.

He said that he had been held and given a room and a mattress in a safe house in the town of Kyengera. Etukuri added that he faced abuse from some guards one morning because he refused to eat breakfast after experiencing abdominal problems eating food provided by his captors. He said that on the following day he was permitted to buy his own food and to read newspapers.

Shortly after Etukuri was abducted, a legal team sent by the newspaper's owners Vision Group filed a case in Uganda's High Court on Thursday for the ISO to release the journalist.

The legal team had filed a habeas corpus but Etukuri was released before the court intervened.

A local media rights activist, Robert Sempala, said that Etukuri's abduction was a "gross abuse of media freedoms and freedom of expression."

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