Ugandan opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine was freed on bail Friday after spending two nights in jail.
Wine was arrested Wednesday at a campaign rally in Eastern Uganda and charged with engaging in an act likely to spread infectious diseases.
He is the leading challenger of Yoweri Museveni who has ruled Uganda for 34 years, making him Africa’s third longest-ruling president.
Several presidential candidates suspended their campaigns in solidarity with Wine. But contender Joseph Kabuleta said suspending campaigns as a form of protest for the brutal arrest of candidates only gives the incumbent an upper hand.
“The man we are dealing with is beyond any shame,” said Kabuleta.
Spontaneous protests erupted in different parts of the country as demonstrators demanded Wine’s release.
Security agencies responded by firing live bullets and tear gas, killing several protesters.
The death toll rose to 37, the highest number in a protest in Uganda in recent history.
According to police pathologist Moses Byaruhanga confirmed that nine bodies were retrieved from the Mulago Hospital.
Medical personnel sources said most of the dead died from gunshot wounds and suffocation.
Others are still hospitalized with gunshot wounds in different medical centers across the country.
State Minister for Primary Health Care Joyce Kaducu said Mulago National Referral Hospital was attending to 68 victims.
“Out of the 68 people, 48 were injured by bullets while 20 were teargassed,” she said.
Deputy Executive Director of the hospital, Rosemary Byanyima, said 46 patients were admitted to the casualty ward.
Police said at least 16 people died in the Kampala Metropolitan area but other sources said the number is higher than the official figure reported.
Several Ugandans converged at the city morgue to identify bodies of loved ones.
Nasser Kogera said his brother, Baker Asiimwe, 26, was shot and killed by a military police soldier in Kisenyi, a Kampala suburb.
In Eastern Uganda, six people in Jinja City and Iganga District were killed, while two died in the central region. The victims were either protesters or bystanders.
One patient, who was on life support in Masaka City, suffocated after police hurled a tear gas canister into the ward.
Another, identified as Faizo, was shot dead by security personnel as he was walking from his home to a mosque for evening prayers.
Katonga Regional police spokeswoman Lydia Tumushabe said Fazio was hit by a stray bullet as police chased protesters.