Lawyers slam Judiciary over Shs30m Besigye bail money

Political activist Dr Kizza Besigye (centre) and his co-accused Samule Lubega Mukaaku wave to supporters after they were released on a cash bail of Shs2.5 millionon July 1, 2022. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The report implores the Judiciary to maintain the presumption of innocence while granting bail.

Lawyers under their professional association the Uganda Law Society (ULS) have criticised the Judiciary for imposing a whooping Shs30m bail cash against political activist, Dr Kizza Besigye.

The lawyers led by their president, Ms Pheona Nabasa Wall, said the money was about 30 times higher than the maximum fine of Shs1.5m that he would have been asked to pay if he had been convicted.

“We saw Dr Besigye being denied bail or being offered bail of Shs30m and yet if he had been fined, he would have been asked to pay Shs1.5m. So I think in this case, despite the Judiciary having constitutional rights to exercise their right in granting bail, the same should be exercised judiciously because justice should not only be done but seen to be done,” Ms Wall said while releasing the rule of law report in Kampala yesterday.

“The ULS condemns this act as the presiding magistrate did not address himself to a matter of law and the presumption of innocence which maintains that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty or pleads guilty,” she added.

On May 25, Dr Besigye refused to pay a Shs30m that Buganda Road Grade One Magistrate Siena Owomugisha had ordered him to pay to regain temporal freedom.

Dr Besigye had been arrested for allegedly rallying Ugandans to protest against the high cost of living.

He explained that if he had paid the whooping bail cash, he would set a bad precedent for future bail applicants. Instead, he chose to go to Luzira prison and appealed against the bail terms before the High Court.

The High Court later set aside the Shs30m bail condition and instead replaced it with Shs3m, which he was able to pay.

The quarterly rule of law report was covering incidents documented between April and June.
Efforts to get a comment from the Judiciary public relations officer, Mr Jamson Karemani, were futile by press time as he never answered our repeated phone calls.

In the same report, the lawyers condemned the arrest of several Opposition politicians who peacefully demonstrated against the skyrocketing commodity prices.

Those arrested included Kampala deputy lord mayor Doreen Nyanjura, Soroti District Woman MP Anna Adeke, and Ms Margaret Wokuri, a member of Forum for Democratic Change.

“ULS condemned the arrest of these activists and maintains that they have a right to protest as their right to freedom of speech and expression. The ULS is also concerned about the rough manner in which the police handled the demonstration as police officers were seen man-handling women…” the lawyers stated.

On the lighter side, the lawyers applauded Parliament for cancelling the Vinci Coffee deal that is alleged to have ring-fenced Uganda’s coffee value and supply chains to one company.

“The ULS highly commends Parliament for taking its views into consideration on the coffee agreement,” the report stated.