President Museveni has pardoned 833 prisoners across the country, a move government officials, say would decongest the prison facilities.
The prisoners now pending release were part of the list of more than 1,000 names submitted by the prisons authorities to decongest prisons as the country fights the Cocid-19 pandemic.
Mr Frank Baine, the spokesperson of the Uganda Prisons Service, yesterday confirmed the development saying details of the released prisoners would be provided upon guidance by the Attorney General (AG).
“A list of petty offenders was submitted with more than 1,000 names. These are petty offenders who do not go beyond two years but had completed three quarters of their sentences (punishment),” Mr Baine said.
He added that the pardoned prisoners are from 259 prisons across the country.
“The AG has received the instrument from the President and he is going to send a detailed breakdown and guide on the Commissioner General of Prisons on how to implement the presidential directive,” Mr Baine added.
In a separate interview, the Deputy AG, Mr Jackson Kafuuzi, confirmed that the President pardoned the prisoners under the prerogative of mercy arrangement.
“It is out of the President’s Constitutional powers to grant a pardon and have convicted prisoners released. He does so on advice of the Prerogative of Mercy Committee, which is constitutionally provided for,” Mr Kafuuzi said.
He could not provide the list of the pardoned prisoners saying he was out of office on other duties.
According to Mr Kafuuzi, the Prerogative of Mercy Committee was appointed by the AG to advise the President on who should be released from jail.
“In light of Covid-19, we have been working to decongest prisons and we decided to consider advising the President to grant mercy and order for release of a number of convicted prisoners who have partially served their punishments and these were convicted prisoners on light offences,” he said, adding: “We (AG) worked with the prison leadership to identify the prisoners to see who should be released.”
Early this month, the Uganda Prisons Service submitted a listed of prisoners to be released. The Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons Service, Dr Johnson Byabashaija, said the prisoners are those who have completed three quarters of their sentences, breast-feeding inmates and prisoners aged 60 or above.
The last time the President pardoned prisoners was in 2013. Those released in the past include Brig Ali Fadhul, a former minister for Provincial Administration in Idi Amin’s regime, who was released in 2009 after spending more than 20 years in prison. Former minister for Security in the Milton Obote II government Chris Rwakasisi, who had been on death row for two decades, was released in the same year.
Another beneficiary of the Presidential Prerogative of Mercy is Mr Abdallah Nasur, the former Central Province Governor during Amin’s regime (1971-1979), who was released in 2001 after spending 20 years in prison.