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Uganda: American couple accused of child torture released on bail

Uganda: American couple accused of child torture released on bail
Nicholas Spencer and his wife Mackenzie Leigh, both 32, in the dock at ...   -  
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BADRU KATUMBA/AFP or licensors


A Ugandan court has granted bail to an American couple arrested in December for torturing the 10-year-old child in their care, their lawyer told AFP on Thursday.

According to court documents seen by AFP, Nicholas and Mackenzie Spencer, both 32, must answer for "aggravated child trafficking" and "aggravated torture" against the young boy between December 2020 and December 2022.

The couple had been arrested in December following a report from the nanny of the child, who was educated in an institution for disabled children. The nurse had reported "repeated inhuman and inappropriate treatment".

Apart from prosecution for "torture" and "trafficking" of children, punishable by life imprisonment, they are also accused of having stayed in Uganda with an expired visa.

The couple, who deny all charges, was being held in a high-security prison outside the capital Kampala.

At a bail hearing on Wednesday, Judge Isaac Muwata released the couple temporarily on the condition that they pay a bond of 50 million Ugandan shillings (12,000 euros) and on the condition that they hand over their passports to the Ugandan authorities, their lawyer David Mpanga told AFP.

The couple told the judge that they both suffered from a rare condition that could not be adequately treated in Uganda's prison system. The magistrate agreed that the couple could be released from prison for treatment.

During their arrest in December, the investigators found evidence showing in particular that the child slept on a "wooden platform, without a mattress".

The boy was one of three children the couple were in charge of. International adoptions of children have created controversy in Uganda.

In 2020, U.S. authorities filed lawsuits and imposed economic sanctions against a U.S.- based adoption organization that placed non-orphan children with U.S. families.

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