At least 46 supporters and campaign team members of National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi were on Thursday evening finally released after reappearing before Masaka Chief Magistrate Charles Yeteise.
The accused were granted bail on Monday but remained in prison where they were reportedly being guarded by armed soldiers, according to their lawyers.
There have been attempts by NUP lawyers to secure their release since Monday, but all the efforts failed despite engaging prison authorities at Masaka Ssaza government Prison.
Prosecution alleges that on December 30, 2020, at Kibale Village, Mugoye Sub County, Kalangala District, the accused persons incited violence and also did a negligent act likely to spread an infectious disease. However, all the 106 accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges.
During the Thursday court sitting a total of 60 accused persons including, Bobi Wine’s singing partner, Ali Bukeni alias Nubian Li, and Eddy Ssebufu aka Eddie Mutwe (Bobi Wine’s personal bodyguard),were not produced in court. This prompted Mr Yeteise to issue criminal summons against the officer in charge of Masaka Ssaza government prison, Mr Henry Kidega to explain to the court why some suspects who were granted bail were not produced in the court.
Mr Lule Alexander , one of the lawyers for the accused persons had earlier asked court to issue an arrest warrant to Mr Kidega, for contempt of court after failing to present his clients as court had ordered him in the production warrant.
“Majority of the accused persons were supposed to be presented to court today [Thursday] for official release, but they have not been produced even after fulfilling the bail conditions,” he said
Another lawyer Mr Majellan Kazibwe told court that they had received information that a bus which was transporting the suspects to court was intercepted by security operatives and taken to unknown destination.
“Your Worship! I ask this honourable court to issue criminal summons to the officer in charge of Ssaza prison to appear before this court and explain the whereabouts of the people who were intercepted while on their way to this court,” he said
The presiding magistrate agreed with the defense team and issued criminal summons to Mr Kidega to appear in Court January 11.
Mr Yeteise also ordered for the immediate release of over 40 NUP supporters who fulfilled the bail conditions.
Mr Johnson Byabashaija, the Uganda Prisons Commissioner explained that the delay to produce the accused persons had been occasioned by lack of transport.
“The other day we had been ambushed, we did not have transport to take that big number of suspects to court. But today we sent a bus from Kampala to take them to court,” he said.
NUP secretary general, Mr David Lewis Rubongoya on Thursday evening said Nubian Li and oother suspporters who were in the diverted bus are being held at Makindye Military Barracks in Kampala.
“On the way to court, the bus in which they were travelling in was diverted to Kampala and now we’re told they are being deatined at Makindye Military Barracks,” he said.
On December 30, security agencies in a joint operation arrested 126 NUP supporters including Kyagulanyi’s drivers and private bodyguards. Some of those arrested were detained at Kalangala Police Station and on Tuesday they appeared before Kalangala Magistrate court and got bail.
During the arrest, the police confiscated Kyagulanyi’s official campaign car and three other cars in his convoy and they are currently parked at Kalangala Police Station.
Kyagulanyi has since protested the security crackdown on his close associates, saying it is intended to isolate him and disorganise his team ahead of the polls, but insists he is not shaken.