On Tuesday this week, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), discontinued terrorism charges against five re-arrested 2010 bomb suspects, eight years after they were charged. The freeing of the suspects came during the pre-trial stage before the International Crimes Division of the High Court, meaning the State did not even try them to test their evidence against them.
The suspects had earlier been tried with other seven co-accused over similar terrorism charges, but were found innocent by then High Court judge Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, now Deputy Chief Justice.
The freed suspects are Dr Ismail Kalule and Abubakari Batemyetto (both Ugandans), Omar Awadh Omar, Yahya Suleiman Mbuthia, and Mohamed Hamid Suleiman (all Kenyans).
The five persons were part of the 13 people tried for being behind the 2010 Kampala twin bombing that left at least 76 football fans killed at Kyadondo Rugby Club and Ethiopian Village in Kabalagala.
Besides dropping the terrorism charges against the five, the State presented to court three deportation letters from Internal Affairs minister requiring that the three Kenyans be deported on grounds of being undesirable immigrants.
However, holding someone for eight years without any incriminating evidence against them should not be acceptable. Imagine how much the suspects have lost in life these many years they were in prison on flimsy charges! Some could have lost their spouses, children, and of course, sources of livelihood.
Re-starting life once again after eight years of incarceration is no mean feat. Yet unless the suspects sue for damages, it is unlikely that the government will compensate for the lost time.
The increasing practice by the investigating and prosecuting bodies of first arresting suspect/s before carrying out conclusive investigations, which would form the basis for the prosecution of suspects, is what brings this problem. The right thing to do should be first to carry out investigations, arrest and then prosecute suspects.
We expect the responsible investigating bodies to be meticulous and avoid arbitrariness by operating above suspicion. All prosecutions should be done according to the laws complete with evidence if such ugly scenarios are to be avoided.
We urge, especially the police and the office of the DPP, not to first shoot and aim later, meaning that they should not rush to arrest and prosecute suspects and later release them due to lack of incriminating evidence to push the case through. This would tantamount to subjecting suspects to unnecessary suffering and distress.
This is committing grave injustice to the affected suspects and a violation of their fundamental human rights, which must stop or be stopped.