Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye appeared in court in the capital, Kampala, on 18 May, on a charge of treason, after a mock swearing-in ceremony, in which he declared himself president of Uganda.

Treason is a capital offence in Uganda, but the death penalty has not been carried out for years.

Besigye claims he won the 18 February presidential elections. However, official figures from the Electoral Commission show, veteran leader President Yoweri Museveni won the elections with 60.8% of all the votes cast while Besigye came second after pulling 30.5%.

The vocal opposition leader, who has been under house arrest for much of the time since the poll, was charged with treason late on 13 May. Besigye was arrested last week after his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party said it had sworn him in as Uganda's president on 11 May – a day before Museveni took the presidential oath for a fifth time.

Following the ceremony, Besigye was arrested and flown to a prison in Moroto, a town in the remote northern Karamoja region of the country before he was transferred to the high-security Luzira prison in Kampala on 16 May.

Kizza Besigye arrives in court in Kampala
Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye arrives at court before his trial for treason in Kampala on 18 May Ronald Kabuubi/AFP/Getty

Appearing before Nakawa chief magistrates' court, Besigye declared he would defend himself, and did not need a lawyer. Supporters of Besigye's FDC party said the new case showed that the leader was being persecuted and being tried by "stealth".

Chief magistrate James Eremya adjourned the case to 1 June.

A long-standing opponent of Museveni, Besigye has been repeatedly tear-gassed, beaten, hospitalised, jailed and accused of rape. He last faced treason charges in 2005, but his case was later dropped.

Museveni, 71, who extended his rule to 35 years in February, meanwhile strengthened his grip after he promoted his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to a top military position this week. Seen as a possible successor, the 42-year old was made a major-general from brigadier, according to local news website Daily Monitor.