Court to rule on bail for Katanga murder suspects next week

Ms Molly Katanga, the woman accused of killing Henry Katanga (inset), appears at Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court where she was formally charged with the murder of her husband, an offence that attracts up to a death penalty by hanging on conviction. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA .  

What you need to know:

  • The prosecution led by Mr Jonathan Muwaganya argued that the accused persons have not raised any exceptional circumstances to convince the court to release them on bail.

The High Court in Kampala will next week rule on a bail application which will determine whether four accused persons in the murder case of Kampala businessman Henry Katanga are freed on bail or not.

This follows the hearing of their bail application yesterday where the State asked court not to release them while the defence lawyers sought their temporary release.

Upon hearing submissions from both sides, presiding judge Isaac Muwata said he would render his ruling on Wednesday next week.

The accused persons seeking bail are Ms Patricia Kakwanza and Ms Martha Nkwanzi, both daughters of the late businessman. They face the charge of destroying evidence. 

The others are Mr Charles Otai, a medic, and Mr George Amanyire, a house help, who both also face a charge of being an accessory after the fact of murder.

Ms Molly Katanga, the widow of Katanga, who alone faces murder charges, has not yet applied to be released on bail. 

The bail guidelines for Courts of Judicature, Practice and Directions, 2022 provide that a decision should be made within 30 days of a bail application. The accused persons filed their bail application on January 10.

The prosecution led by Mr Jonathan Muwaganya argued that the accused persons have not raised any exceptional circumstances to convince the court to release them on bail.

“…We oppose the application in totality. We invite the court to consider the fact that this matter was already committed and ready for trial, we invite the court to use its discretion and dismiss the application and instead fix the hearing date. But if the court is inclined to grant bail for any of the applicants, we pray for stringent terms,” Mr Muwaganya told court.

The stringent terms are that applicants should deposit land titles and passports to the court, a proposed bond of Shs100m for each of the sureties to compel them to do their duties, applicants should report to the registrar every week until the trial date and a specific order for non-interference of witnesses or persons that recorded police statements.

Mr Muwaganya said there is a high likelihood of some of the accused persons absconding from court once released on bail. He gave the example of Ms Nkwanzi who only appeared in court for plea-taking after a warrant of arrest was issued. 

He added that Mr Otai and Mr Amanyire have no fixed places of abode and have also presented non-substantial sureties.

However, Mr Elison Karuhanga, one of the defence lawyers, asked the court to take judicial notice of the health considerations of some the applicants citing the fact that Ms Nkwanzi is a lactating mother.

The grounds raised by the applicants for bail include that the charges against them are bailable, it is their constitutional right to apply for bail, they have substantial sureties and are law-abiding citizens who have never been charged or convicted of any criminal offence.

Other grounds are that they are gainfully employed, are breadwinners for their respective families with fixed places of abode within the jurisdiction of the court to which they shall not abscond once released on bail, and that they cannot interfere with the investigations into the pending criminal case.

Three of those seeking bail have been on remand at Luzira prison since November last year.