MP Zaake's absence keeps Ssegirinya in jail

Friday September 24 2021
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Kawempe North MP Mohammed Ssegirinya in court recently. Photo | File

By U R N

The absence of Mityana Municipality Member of Parliament Francis Zaake has caused his Kawempe North counterpart Muhammad Ssegirinya to stay in jail longer, days after he was granted bail.

Mr Zaake who is currently out of the country, committed himself to stand surety for Mr Ssegirinya who is facing charges of murder, attempted murder and aiding and abetting terrorism. Yesterday (Thursday) he was not available to append his signature on the release form such that Ssegirinya can gain temporary freedom.

Ssegirinya was jointly arrested with Makindye West MP Allan Ssewanyana on September 8, 2021 and taken to Masaka Magistrate’s Court on charges of murder, attempted murder and terrorism arising from the recent spate of killings of people using machetes in Greater Masaka sub region. They were remanded to Kigo Government Prison.

But since the court lacked jurisdiction to try the offenses, they had to seek bail before the High Court which was granted by Justice Victoria Nakintu Katamba on September 20, 2021 on presumption that they are still innocent until proven guilty.

As part of the bail conditions however, the judge directed each of the legislators to pay a Shs20 million cash bail and ordered their sureties to execute a bond form of Shs100 million not cash.

They were also instructed to surrender their passports to the International Crimes Division of the High Court where they should be reporting twice every month and barred from participating in any rhetoric that may cause public excitement.

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After fulfilling the conditions of paying the cash to the bank and surrendering their passports, the parties on Thursday appeared before the High Court International Crimes Division Registrar Beatrice Atingu in Kampala to append signatures on the forms.

Subsequently, Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya appeared via a zoom link connecting from court to Kigo prison where they were directed to sign in the presence of the Registrar before the sureties can also sign physically in court.

Mr Ssewanyana was the first to sign on the three copies of the forms after being directed to read through the terms and conditions. He was then followed by Ssegirinya who seemed eagerly waiting to leave jail, as his co accused Ssewanyana told him to first read through before signing even though he had started signing without reading.

The Registrar then called Ssewanyana’s three sureties who are all Members of Parliament; Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, Veronica Nanyondo and Francis Katabazi Katongole to appear at the bar as she read one name after the other to move forward and append their signatures as well.

Moments later, court took a break of 20 minutes since Ssegirinya's sureties were not all in court and resumed to let the two sureties Walugembe Moses Mawanda and Christine Nandagire who were present to also append their signatures. 

When the process of physical signing was complete, the Registrar said the accused persons were further remanded until the release order reaches Kigo prison.

Mr Ssegirinya’s lead lawyer, the Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago said they will file an application to substitute Zaake.

Mr Lukwago said that they have two other MPs, including Mityana Woman MP Joyce Bagala with whom they want court to allow them to substitute Zaake and be considered as his surety. 

"We have hit a snag once again as far as [release of] Hon Ssegirinya is concerned. We may not have him out today (Thursday). It's practically impossible right now because court has declined to proceed in the manner which is not in consonance with the orders of the trial judge who handled the bail application becuase the sureties were three for Hon Ssegirinya, including Hon Zaake. We intend to substitute him but that also requires a formal application," Mr Lukwago said.

The prosecution alleges that the Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana physically participated and connived with other people to execute the murders in Greater Masaka around the month of July and August 2021. 

According to the prosecution, the killings were made with intent to intimidate the public for political, religious, social, or economic gains. However, the MPs denied the charges.

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