The New York Times. April 04, 2020

(Brent) #1



The Pakistani authorities said Friday
that four men had been rearrested in the
abduction and killing of the American
journalist Daniel Pearl after a court over-
turned their convictions just the day be-
fore. The government will appeal their
acquittals to Pakistan’s Supreme Court,
officials said.
On Thursday the High Court in Sindh
Province overturned the murder convic-
tion of Ahmed Omar Sheikh, a high-pro-
file British-born militant accused of mas-
terminding the 2002 abduction and

killing of Mr. Pearl. It also tossed out his
death sentence, reducing it to seven
years, a move that would have allowed
him to be freed for time served. The con-
victions of three other men in the case on
murder and terrorism charges were also
The court decision was widely con-
demned by American officials and jour-
nalists’ groups. Welcoming Pakistan’s
move to appeal on Friday, a senior State
Department official said, “The overturn-
ing of the convictions for Daniel Pearl’s
murder is an affront to victims of terror-

ism everywhere.”
The official, Alice G. Wells, added,
“Those responsible for Daniel’s heinous
kidnapping and murder must face the
full measure of justice.”
The Pakistani Interior Ministry said

Friday in a statement that the men’s re-
lease was halted after they were re-
arrested through a measure allowing the
government to hold suspects for three
The ministry said it “reiterates its
commitment to follow due process under
the laws of the country to bring terrorists
to task.”
Officials said the release of the four
men could create a serious problem with
law and order.
Mr. Pearl, a reporter for The Wall
Street Journal, was abducted and killed

in 2002 in the southern port city of Kara-
chi while he was working on an investi-
gation about militant groups’ links to Al
The Sindh High Court had ruled that
there was sufficient evidence against Mr.
Sheikh in Mr. Pearl’s abduction but not
his killing.
Pakistani officials said an appeal
would be filed next week.
American officials have said they be-
lieve Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, ac-
cused of masterminding the attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001, personally carried out Mr.
Pearl’s murder.

Pakistan Appeals Acquittals of Four Men in 2002 Killing of American Journalist


Rearrests after a court

throws out convictions in

the death of Daniel Pearl.



HE TEARSbegan flowing immedi-
ately after Stella Nyanzi began
to speak.
It was a cool mid-March afternoon,
three weeks after Ms. Nyanzi, a Ugan-
dan scholar and feminist, was released
from prison for insulting the country’s
longtime president, Yoweri Museveni.
Before her was an array of political
activists and community organizers,
many of whom had traveled long dis-
tances to celebrate her newfound free-
dom at a hotel in Kampala, the capital.
“Thank you for loving me,” she said,
drying her tears. “To love me is to
invite hate. Some of us have been
hated so much that we don’t know how
to do love.”
But Ms. Nyanzi, who speaks with a
ringing, authoritative voice, quickly got
back to her remarks, urging activists in
rural and urban areas to work together
to build stronger grass-roots coalitions
that could challenge the country’s
political elite and empower margin-
alized people.
“We can laugh when we are liber-
ated from Museveni,” she said of the
75-year-old president, once the darling
of Western democracy advocates
whose rule has devolved into outright
“Please be bad for the sake of the
cause,” she exhorted the activists, and
with an impish grin added, “And don’t
get caught while being bad.”
Ms. Nyanzi, 45, has in recent years
become one of the most potent foes of
Mr. Museveni, who has governed the
East African nation for 34 years. With
over 212,000 followers on Facebook,
Ms. Nyanzi mixes profanity and bawdy
humor with razor-sharp political in-
sights in both English and Luganda to
taunt the president and his family and
agitate for sociopolitical and economic
In a country where freely expressing
opinions is a risky endeavor, her de-
nunciations have put her in the sights
of the government’s security apparatus.
But she has never been the shrinking
violet sort.
In 2016, when Ms. Nyanzi was sus-
pended from her teaching post at Mak-
erere University, the country’s largest
and most prestigious university, she
stripped naked and chained herself in
her office in protest. In 2017, she was
detained for over a month after calling
Mr. Museveni “a pair of buttocks” in a
Facebook post. Officials tried to commit
her to a mental hospital.
In 2018, she was arrested and
charged with cyberharassment after
writing a poem about the president’s
mother’s vagina, leading to an 18-month
jail sentence last August. While attend-
ing the verdict via video link, Ms.
Nyanzi screamed obscenities at the
court and bared her breasts in protest.
But after a court quashed that sen-
tence in late February, Ms. Nyanzi said
she came out more determined than
ever to skewer the president and his
allies — and risk going back to prison.
“I refuse to be repentant,” she said in
an interview one recent morning at her
home in Kampala.
Images of her three children — a
daughter, Baraka, 15, and twin sons,
Wasswa and Kato, 12 — hang next to
shelves filled with books on sexuality,
gender studies and self-improvement.
She and the children’s father, Ousman
Bah, separated 13 years ago.
Ms. Nyanzi says she’s not preoccu-
pied with Mr. Museveni himself, but is
“obsessed with the abuser of the seat of
the president; he is the liberator who is
now an oppressor.”
When he captured power in 1986, Mr.
Museveni promised “a fundamental
change in the politics of our govern-
ment” and an end to years of lawless-
ness, political strife and human rights
abuses. But his critics accuse him of
overseeing a government with high
levels of corruption, expanding digital
surveillance powers and refusing to
address unemployment and poverty.
Citizens, exasperated by the coun-
try’s direction, have increasingly taken
to the streets in recent years, pro-
testing escalating food and fuel prices,
anti-gay legislation, tuition increases
and the failure of the police to investi-
gate violence against women.
Ms. Nyanzi has not only helped to
organize and lead some of these pro-
tests; she’s also written about them in
academic journals and on social media
platforms, the latter in her characteris-
tically sardonic style.
The eldest of four sisters, Ms. Nyanzi
was born in the town of Jinja in south-

eastern Uganda, where her father
worked as a doctor and her mother was
a social worker. (She also has eight
half-siblings from her father.) A trained
medical anthropologist with degrees
from Makerere University, University
College London and the London School
of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, she
said she was always aware of her rela-
tively privileged upbringing.
“I know what it means to have,” she
says, “but I refuse to be guilty about
privilege because you can use it to help


Sa medical anthropologist, Ms.
Nyanzi has delved into a wide
range of issues, including the
negotiation of sexual relationships
among Ugandan students, the impact of
H.I.V. and AIDS on rural communities
and homosexuality in Africa.
But she has a public, nonacademic
side, trying to break down complex
ideas into what she calls “chewable
posts” on Facebook, covering cultural
and health issues, as well as topics on
sexuality, gender, law and politics.
“Social media is very elitist,” she
said. “By using it, I know we are ex-
cluding a huge majority of the popula-
tion.” But it scares the powerful, she

said, mentioning a contentious social
media tax that the authorities intro-
duced in 2018 and that has depressed
Lacing her messages online with
invective and sexual metaphors helps
her to reach a large number of people,
Ms. Nyanzi says. In a recently pub-

lished collection of poems written be-
hind bars and titled “No Roses From
My Mouth,” she compares jail to sexual
intercourse, concluding neither “lasts
“Many people ask me, ‘Why sex?’ I
ask, ‘Why not?’ It’s a perfect thing that
we are all thinking about,” she said.


ERwritings have predictably
drawn criticism from the coun-
try’s more conservative ele-
ments, but also from fellow activists,
who believe her antics detract from
their message.
“You can oppose Mr. Museveni while
also remaining civil and respectful,” a
journalist, Musaazi Namiti, wrote re-
cently. “Obscene expletives and shock-
ing sexual imagery dumped on social
media in the name of opposing a power-
hungry president are not alternative
policies. They cannot propel Uganda
In the face of such criticism, Ms.
Nyanzi remains, as she said, unrepen-
“They say I am reckless; they want
me to silence myself, to edit my rude-
ness,” she said. “I am an academic, not
a politician. I want the issues flagged
out there, and if I lose a few supporters
in the process, then perhaps the issues
are much more important.”
Out of prison now, Ms. Nyanzi is
spending more time with her children,
taking them to the zoo and poetry read-
ings, where fans applaud when she
walks in and ask for selfies and auto-
While her children understand her
drive and cause — they help make
placards for her protests — she says
she knows her absence takes a toll on
“They sometimes ask me, ‘Mom, why
do you love Uganda more than us?’ ”
she said on a recent drive while one of
her twin boys sat in the car. “I want to
be there for them. I want to have an
input on their lives. I hope they forgive
Ms. Nyanzi is also spending time
with her partner, David Musiri, an
activist who was also the father of the
baby she miscarried in prison. The two
met in 2018 while protesting in front of
Police Headquarters to get clearance
for a march demanding government
action against a spate of kidnappings
and murders of women in Kampala.
On a quiet Sunday in March, she and
Mr. Musiri visited the grave of his
adopted father, who died last year while
Ms. Nyanzi was still in detention. After
giving her respects, she said she was
determined to work hard and lay the
groundwork that will see Mr. Museveni
go before or after she dies. She’s also
mulling a run for office as Uganda’s
2021 elections draw closer.
“The suppression will continue,” she
said. “I know I will go back to prison.
They will handcuff my body but not my

‘Please be bad for the sake of the cause. And don’t get caught while being bad.’




Rattling Uganda’s Autocracy With Sharp Insight and Bawdy Humor


Supporters of Ms. Nyanzi watching court proceedings in August 2019 after she was charged with cyberharassment.


President Yoweri Museveni has been Uganda’s leader since 1986.

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