A Ugandan weightlifter who went missing in Japan after failing to compete in the Tokyo Olympics was arrested on his return home on Friday and has been held without charge since.
The man, Julius Ssekitoleko, 20, made headlines last week after news of his disappearance from the Ugandan team’s training site in Izumisano, a town in Osaka, was announced.
It’s still unclear exactly how Ssekitoleko got to training camp in the first place, given that he failed to qualify for the Olympics.
Once it became clear that he could not participate, he was expected to return to Uganda. Instead, he fled and the police found him a few days later, according to the Uganda Criminal Investigations Directorate.
Upon his return to Uganda, Ssekitoleko was taken into custody, where he remains, although no charges have been filed, his legal team told NBC News.
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Anthony Wameli, founder and managing partner of Wameli & Co., the legal agency representing Ssekitoleko, said an application has been made to the court for Ssekitoleko’s unconditional release.
“This is unreasonable detention. He is being held illegally,” Wameli said.
Wameli said detentions without clear justification are “common” in Uganda. “Anything can be possible,” he said. “The authorities can do anything.
Rights groups have repeatedly accused the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni of arresting and detaining people without justification and detaining them for long periods without access to fair trials.
Wameli said Ssekitoleko could face charges. However, he said, he has not yet been informed of any possible charges.
The Ugandan government and police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Speaking to reporters at a Monday night press conferenceUgandan police spokesman Charles Twiine said officials were investigating how Ssekitoleko got to Japan.
“What is visibly clear here is that there is a probable fraud of airlifting a person with full knowledge of the facts that he or she had not been qualified,” Twiine reportedly said. “Now the fundamental question is: was he part of the fraud as a conspirator? “
Twiine said Ssekitoleko explained his actions by telling authorities he remained “totally frustrated” after learning he would not be able to compete in Tokyo.
Ssekitoleko, who has competed in the 56-kilogram weightlifting division and has previously represented Uganda in competitions, including Australia, said “his hopes have been shattered,” Twiine said.
Wameli said Ssekitoleko was “distraught” as he waits to know if he will be released. His family were able to visit him, but calls from Ssekitoleko’s relatives for his release have so far gone unanswered, Wameli said.
Numerous Twitter accounts have joined the calls for Ssekitoleko’s release, using the hashtag “#StandWithSsekitoleko” to show their support.
Henry Tumukunde, presidential candidate in Uganda’s January elections, said on twitter that he thinks Ssekitoleko should have “a second chance”.
“How many people can stand up and say that they have been good enough to represent the country at a major sporting event? Talent needs to be guided and the right environment to be fully realized,” he said. he declares.