Wednesday January 23 2013

Mukula applies to court for bail

By Stephen Otage & Simon Peter Emwamu

Soroti Municipality MP Mike Mukula has applied for bail pending appeal against a four-year jail sentence handed to him for embezzling Shs210 million from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation project.

“We have already filed the notice of appeal before court pending the bail application. We also have instructions to review the law regarding loss of the parliamentary seat upon conviction of a legislator so that we can take appropriate action,” Mr Fred Muwema, Capt. Mukula’s lawyer, said.

Last week, the Anti-Corruption Division of the Magistrates Court found the former junior Health minister guilty, a ruling he contests as being politically-motivated, partly because his co-accused were exonerated.
There have been some public claims that the former minister is a victim of selective prosecution, although the MP is not being absolved of his crime.

Capt. Mukula was convicted in the Shs1.6 billion Gavi theft case after his co-accused; Mr Jim Muhwezi (former Health minister), Dr Alex Kamugisha (former junior Health minister) and Ms Alice Kaboyo (former private secretary in-charge of Political Affairs at State House) were cleared last year.

Ms Kaboyo was ordered to pay a Shs20 million as a fine after she pleaded guilty.

Describing Capt. Mukula’s stay in Luzira Prison as peaceful, Mr Muwema said he was confident the law would be followed to have him released because he did not steal the money.

According to the lawyer, the trial magistrate erred in fact and in law, arriving at a wrong decision to convict the MP without substantial evidence to show that he stole the money.

Back in his Soroti Municipality constituency, aggrieved supporters of the jailed MP set ablaze NRM membership cards.

Mr Peter Lochom, the chairperson of the Etem Itei Iteso Association, said burning the cards was a deliberate message to the President.

“We are receiving stray messages and calls threatening to arrest us,” Mr Lochom said, adding that regardless of the intimidation, they would not give up.

Mideast Police Spokesperson Juma Hassan Nyene said the demonstrations were unwarranted and denied claims that the heavily-deployed security was targeting civilians.