MPs Ssegirinya, Ssewanyana out after over 500 days

MPs Allan Ssewanyana and Muhammad Ssegirinya appear before Masaka High Court via teleconferencing on February 13, 2023. PHOTO | FAHAD MALIK JJINGO

What you need to know:

  • While appearing before Justice Lawrence Tweyanze, the Masaka resident state attorney Mr Richard Birivumbuka, told the court that the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) had issued a certificate of no objection to that effect.

After spending 524 days in jail, an equivalent of 17 months, embattled Opposition Members of Parliament Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North) and Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) yesterday temporarily regained their freedom.

The MPs, who are accused of being behind the wave of machete killings of at least 26 people in greater Masaka in mid-2021, were each released on a cash bail of Shs20m.

This was their third attempt at bail with previous attempts being frustrated as they left Kigo prison.
“I grant the applicants (MPs) bail with the following conditions; Shs20m cash for each of the applicants, Shs50m not cash for each of the sureties, report to the International Crimes Division of the High Court once every month and they should not interfere with the investigations,” ruled Justice Lawrence Tweyanze of Masaka High Court amid ululations by the MPs’ supporters who had filled the courtroom.

The court release order to the Superintendent of Kigo Prison where the MPs were being held, read: “The above-named accused persons/applicants today on the 13th February, the said Hon Allan Ssewanyana Aloysious and Hon Muhammad Ssegirinya are hereby released from custody.”

“This is to authorise and require you the said superintendent to release the said Hon Allan Ssewanyana and Hon Muhammad Ssegirinya in your custody forthwith,” the court order further read.

By press time last evening, the MPs’ defence lawyers were still running around to ensure that the signing of the court release papers was done and have them out. 

Friends and family members were also still camped at the gate of Kigo prison, awaiting the release of their loved ones.

However, Prisons spokesperson Frank Baine, while appearing before NBS television station, said the MPs had already left their custody following a court release order.

Earlier, Justice Tweyanze granted bail to the legislators after the representative from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mr Richard Birivumbuka, issued a “certificate of no objection” in having the duo released on bail.

Mr Birivumbuka told the court that the prosecution had withdrawn three of their affidavits that they had used to object to the release of the MPs on bail.

Ms Jacquelyn Okui, the spokesperson of the DPP, last evening explained that their office has powers to issue a “certificate of no objection” under the Trial on Indictment Act.

She also revealed that they decided not to object to the release on bail of the MPs this time, citing their ill health.

“The DPP has power to issue certificate of no objection under the law. A certificate of no objection to bail signed by the DPP is an exceptional circumstance for the grant of bail under the law. It has been issued in some other cases such as Charles Mumbere,” Ms Okui said yesterday.

Adding: “In the MPs’ case, the DPP took into consideration the illness of the MPs and the fact that the prosecution witnesses had been secured,”

Moments after the ruling, Ms Justine Nakajumbi, the mother of MP Ssegirinya, who has on several occasions publicly cried out to government officials to have her son released, applauded the Judiciary.

“I am grateful to the court, the defence team and whoever has done anything to ensure that my sons Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana finally get out of prison. I am so happy to see that at last the court has ruled in our favour,”a joyful Ms Nakajumbi was heard saying on top of her voice.

Shortly after the ruling, the defence team led by Mr Caleb Alaka said they were happy with the decision to withdraw the affidavits in objection such that the MPs get released.

Equally, Mr Erias Lukwago, one of the defence lawyers, welcomed the court decision, reasoning that their clients had spent a very long time on remand without being tried to prove their innocence or guilt.