Pre-trial of jailed NUP legislators fails again

Kawempe South MP Muhammad Ssegirinya with his co-accused Makindye West MP Allan Ssewanyana at International War Crimes Division Court in Kololo, Kampala, on July 28, 2022. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

For the second time running in about two weeks, the pre-trial of jailed Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North), has flopped due to unreadiness of the prosecution.

When the matter came up for further pre-trial before the International Crimes Division of the High Court yesterday, majority of the defence lawyers said they had partly or completely not received evidence from the prosecution as earlier ordered.

The duo is accused of being behind the spate of killings in Masaka Sub-region that left about 26 residents killed between March and June 2021.

They face charges ranging from terrorism, murder, attempted murder to aiding and abetting terrorism.

“My lord, Caleb Alaka is my name, yesterday evening (Wednesday), as defense lawyers of A5 and A6 (the MPs), we were served with three medical examination reports, PF24,examination reports of the accused and sketch maps, my lord, we have not internalised these documents,” Counsel Caleb Alaka, one of the MPs’ defence lawyers, told presiding Judge Jane Elizabeth Alividza.

Kampala Lord mayor Erias Lukwago, another of the defence lawyers, said several law firms representing the duo, had not yet received the evidence from the prosecution as earlier directed by court.

“Some lawyers were given [evidence] and others were unable to receive. Those that haven’t received include; Rwakafuuzi & Co. Advocates, Alaka & Co. Advocates, Turinawe Kamba & Co. Advocates and Malende & Co. Advocates. Our prayer is that we also be served,” Mr Lukwago said.

But Mr Lino Anguzo, one of the prosecutors, assured the court: “We are committed to completing disclosure, I request our colleagues (defense lawyers) to give us their physical addresses.”

He added: “Allow us by August 9 to have filed the protection application and be here in court on August 11 as opposed to August 4. I pray that you allow the schedules in that manner.”

Counsel Alaka, in response, said he did not object to the request by the prosecution, asking for more time to disclose evidence to them but cautioned that the same should be done in a timely manner. He also informed Justice Alividza of how they will be moving court to have the cases against the MPs, which is before Masaka High Court, merged with the one of terrorism that they are battling with before the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala.

Justice Alividza expressed concern over the delayed service and lack of specialised treatment of the legislators.

The pre-trial session now resumes on August 11.

 Some of arrested say

At the end of yesterday’s session, Justice Alividza asked each suspect to air out their grievances.

 MP Allan Ssewanyana, “I have expressed several concerns to the court regarding my health condition but nothing has been done. The Court of Appeal ordered that we should be taken to Mulago for check-ups every seven days but this has never happened.”

 MP Muhammad   Ssegirinya, “Before my arrest, I used to travel to Nairobi [Kenya] for medication for my liver problem that requires urgent attention which can’t be offered by the prison or Ugandan hospitals. I also ask that we be released on bail because we all don’t know why we are being charged. I also ask to remove my shirt, if possible, to show the torture marks. I also request that the court issues an arrest warrant for the state attorney, Mr Richard Birivumbuka, for confusing the court because every time he is asked for evidence, he comes up with excuses.”

Charles Kanyike, “After my arrest, I was put in a drone and driven to Kireka where I was beaten and told to confess, accept that I committed the crimes or I lose my life. After this I was again put in a drone and taken to some barracks where I was given two options to either say Mr Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya are the ones behind the murders or I lose my life.”

Compiled by Anthony Wesaka, Precious Delilah & Juliet Kigongo