Saturday March 12 2016

EC invites Mbabazi lawyers to check district tally sheets

Lawyers representing the EC and Mr Mbabazi

Lawyers representing the EC and Mr Mbabazi check documents on Thursday at the Supreme Court in Kololo. Photo by Eric D. Bukenya.  

By Isaac Imaka

Kampala. The Electoral Commission has complied with the Supreme Court directive to avail to Mr Amama Mbabazi’s legal team copies of district vote tally sheets as the lawyers had demanded during the pre-hearing on Thursday.
An official of the Supreme Court confirmed EC’ compliance off the record, that lawyers representing EC in the presidential election petition communicated to court on Thursday evening confirming the tally sheets were available and ready for inspection.

Mr Mbabazi’s legal team also confirmed receipt of EC’s communication to go and inspect the ballot tally sheets from districts.
“We will go there at 3pm and we will have a look at them as we inspect the rest of the material,” Mr Severino Twinobusingye, a lawyer on the Mbabazi team said yesterday.
Mr Mbabazi, a former presidential candidate, petitioned the Supreme Court seeking to annul Mr Museveni’s victory in the February 18 election which he says was a sham.

Mr Asuman Basalirwa, another of Mr Mbabazi’s lawyers also confirmed the EC invitation, adding they had submitted the extra affidavits to the registrar of the Supreme Court as had been directed by the court.
Court on Thursday rejected Mbabazi lawyers’ request for more time to enable them complete their preparedness following the raid on their offices on Wednesday by gunmen who stole evidence documents.

Then court ordered them to submit the additional affidavits by close of Thursday.
“We submitted what was available,” Basalirwa said. “The law does not say we must submit everything on the same day because affidavits can keep coming in even as the case hearing is ongoing,” he added.
The issue of district vote tally sheets came up on Wednesday during the pre-hearing conference between all parties to the petition when lawyers for EC were asked to provide the district tally sheets to Mbabazi’s a team.

The EC lawyers were reluctant to confirm whether they would avail the vote tally sheets from the district returning officers.
Responding to the request, Mr Enos Tumusiime, the EC lead lawyer, first argued that all presidential candidates, including Mr Mbabazi, had been provided with all copies of the tally sheets, referring to the summary results posted on the EC website, which Mbabazi lawyers rejected and insisted on the tally sheets signed by the returning officers.

When pressed and told that what was demanded were the district tally sheets signed by district returning officers, not the amalgamated national tally sheets signed by EC chairman Mr Badru Kiggundu, Mr Tumusiime informed the Mbabazi team they would have to wait a little longer.
The judges ordered EC to provide the required tally sheets and Mr Tumusiime promised to consult his client and report back on whether the documents were available.

Arrested witnesses
Meanwhile, Mr Basalirwa yesterday paraded nine of the 13 Mbabazi witnesses whom he had told court on Thursday they had been arrested near Mr Mbabazi’s home as they arrived at the petitioner’s residence to record affidavits, and taken into police detention in Kireka and later Nalufenya in Jinja.
During the court Thursday sitting Mwesigwa Rukutana, the deputy Attorney General, had accused Mr Basalirwa of perjury and unprofessional conduct by lying before court about the arrest of the witnesses.

Parading the nine witnesses at Mr Mohammad Mbabazi’s chambers, on Thursday evening, Mr Basalirwa said the Attorney General is instead the one who lied to court.
“Detention itself being illegal means that those arrested cannot be officially recorded in the detention registers and so it cannot be a point to mean that because they were not registered anywhere, there were no arrests at all,” he said.

Recounting their story, the men, majority from Busoga, said they were arrested on March 6 before they entered Mr Mbabazi’s home, taken to Kireka SIU offices before being whisked to Nalufenya Police Station in Jinja and later freed. The Supreme Court will also sit today to hear the application by nine Makerere University lecturers and civil society seeking to join the petition.

iimaka@ug.nationmedia.com

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