Court orders DPP to start trial of jailed MPs

Mr Erias Lukwago (centre), one of the defence lawyers, of remanded MPs Allan Ssewanyana and Muhammad Ssegirinya makes a submission at the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala on Tuesday. PHOTO / FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • The judge also directed that the MPs be brought to court at the next hearing as opposed to them following proceedings virtually from prison.

High Court Judge Jane Elizabeth Alividza on Tuesday rejected prayers by officers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to be granted a one-month adjournment in order to enable them commence prosecution of two opposition MPs; Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North).

 When the case came up for pre-hearing before the International Crimes Division of the High Court, prosecutors Joseph Kyomuhendo and Richard Birivumbuka informed the presiding judge how they had delayed to meet their witnesses.

 The prosecutors claimed not to have yet visited and interviewed their witnesses in Masaka, the scene of crime.

Mr Birivumbuka said they need to visit the witnesses and understand their challenges and appreciate what type of help or support they need, before asking for a month’s adjournment period to work on these.

Further, the prosecutors informed court that they intend to make a protection application for their witnesses not to be exposed as they testify.

But defence lawyers led by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago protested the adjournment.

Mr Lukwago argued that the 30-day adjournment request is intended to delay justice and not taking into consideration the rights of his clients who have spent more than nine months on remand without trial.

In response, Justice Alividza overruled the one-month adjournment request by the prosecution and instead pushed the pre-trial hearing to next week.

 “This matter is adjourned to July 28, for pre-trial hearing…,” she said.

The judge also directed the prisons authorities to bring the jailed MPs physically in court at the next hearing as opposed to them following proceedings virtually from prison as it was on Tuesday.

The MPs are accused of being behind the spate of killings in Greater Masaka area that saw about 26 residents killed between March and June 2021 by machete welding goons.

They face charges ranging from terrorism, murder, attempted murder to aiding and abetting terrorism.

The legislators are jointly charged alongside five others; Mr Jackson Kanyike, Mr John Mugerwa, Mr Bull Wamala, Mr Mike Sserwadda and Mr Jude Muwonge.

 Prior to the prosecution’s revelation of delaying to get their witnesses, presiding judge briefed the legislators of how a pre-trial is a procedure followed by the International Crimes Division to ensure a fair trial and enable the case proceed expeditiously.

 The judge went on to explain that at this stage, prosecution is supposed to disclose all its evidence and exhibits to the defence lawyers.

 She added that the evidence will then be weighed to establish whether it can sustain the charges against the MPs during the full trial before a panel of three justices and that if it’s not sufficient, then the charges are dismissed and they are freed. 


 Last month, the Court of Appeal rejected releasing the jailed legislators on bail, citing lack of jurisdiction but directed that their delayed trial be fast tracked so that their constitutional rights are not further abused.