High Court rejects Besigye’s bail application

UNAIDs executive director Winnie Byanyima (left) in the High Court in Kampala where she had gone to stand surety for her jailed partner and four-time presidential contender Dr Kizza Besigye (right) on June 30, 2022. Looking on (centre) is Besigye's co-accused Samuel Lubega Mukaaku. PHOTO/ ABUBAKER LUBOWA

The High Court in Kampala has dismissed a bail application by former presidential candidates, Dr Kizza Besigye and Samuel Lubega Mukaaku who have been in detention since June 15, 2022 following their arrest in downtown Kampala for exhorting Ugandans to rise up against government inaction to cushion vulnerable citizens against skyrocketing commodity prices.
They were arraigned before Buganda Road Court and charged with incitement to violence two days after their arrest.
However, the presiding magistrate, Mr Asuman Muhumuza, declined to release them on grounds that they had become “habitual offenders”.
But through their lawyers, Dr Besigye and Mr Mukaaku challenged the lower court’s decision, citing several grounds.

“The trial magistrate wrongfully denied the applicants bail basing on a track record of unprosecuted frivolous criminal cases opened against them by the State,” they told High Court.
“The decision of the learned trial magistrate denying bail based on the aforementioned reasons derogated the applicant’s rights to a fair hearing, civil liberties and the presumption of innocence,” they added.
In his affidavit to support his application, Dr Besigye said: “His worship Asuman Muhumuza denied us bail on the ground of previous antecedents, particularly that we have been charged before the same court on similar charges and he would not guarantee that if granted bail, we would not commit the same offence.”

“The magistrate unfairly and injudiciously exercised his discretion by relying onto charges in respect of which I have not been convicted of any offense before. I am aware that the cornerstone of our criminal justice system, as laid out in the Constitution, is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and I have not been convicted of any offense before,” he added.
Dr Besigye further avered that he has previously been granted bail and has never absconded and that the current charges that he is facing were brought against him in bad faith by the State.

However, in his ruling Thursday afternoon, the presiding High Court judge Tadeo Asiimwe dismissed their bail application arguing that they should have petitioned the Chief Magistrate’s Court, and not High Court.
This was after Mr Isaiah Wanamama, a representative of the Director of Public Prosecutions, raised a preliminary objection in the morning, arguing that Dr Besigye’s bail application was prematurely before the High Court.
Citing Section 75 of the Magistrates Court Act, Mr Wanamama, submitted that Dr Besigye should have filed his bail application appeal before the Chief Magistrate and not jump the judicial hierarchy structure to file the same application before the High Court.

“They didn’t exhaust the magistrate structures as they should have first gone to the Chief Magistrate where the main criminal matter is pending. They can only come here (High Court) if the Chief Magistrate has denied bail and not a Grade One Magistrate as it’s the case,”Mr Wanamama argued.
However, Counsel Ernest Kalibaala, who represented a host of Dr Besigye’s defense lawyers, had contended that Section 75 of the Magistrates Court Act, gives an aggrieved party denied bail by a Grade One Magistrate, a choice to either appeal before a Chief Magistrate or the High Court.
“A High Court may direct that a person denied bail be released since the two courts enjoy the same powers to grant bail. So, it’s not proper to suggest that the law bars this court from hearing or granting the application,” Mr Kalibaala submitted.
“The critical issue is that bail was denied before the lower court. We pray that you dismiss the preliminary objection and release the applicants (Dr Besigye and Mr Lubega) on bail,” he added.

Some of the sureties that Dr Besigye’s lawyers had presented to have him regain his freedom, included; his partner, Winnie Byanyima who is also the executive director of UNAIDS , Kampala Deputy Lord Mayor Doreen Nyanjura and former Rukungiri Municipality MP, Roland Mugume.
The sureties who stood for Mr Mukaaku included; Buikwe South MP Michael Lulume Bayigga and former Mbale District Woman MP aspirant Margaret Wokuri.
 “The trial magistrate wrongfully denied the applicants (Dr Besigye and Mr Makaaku) bail basing on a track record of unprosecuted frivolous criminal cases opened against them by the State,” court records had stated in part.


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