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High Court quashes 10-year jail term handed to miraa dealer

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | High Court Judge, Yasin Nyanzi has quashed a ten year sentence given to 23-year-old Peter Mayanja for trafficking in Catha-Edulis alias Miraa.

Mayanja, a former clearing agent at Entebbe Airport, was picked up by Aviation police in 2016 and charged with Trafficking in psychiatric substance contrary to section 5 of the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Act, 2016.

The Entebbe Chief Magistrate, Mary Keitesi found Mayanja guilty and sentenced him to ten years in Kigo prison or a fine of Shillings 13million. Mayanja couldn’t raise the money and opted to serve in prison. He however, decided to challenge the sentence through his lawyer, Isaac Semakadde from the Centre for Legal Aid.

In his submission, Semakadde asked court to set free his client on grounds that Miraa isn’t illegal according to Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Act, 2016. He argued that although the Act was passed, parliament left it to the Internal Affairs Minister to decide on the fate of Miraa, a thing he hasn’t done.

He explained that at the moment there is no law banning the Miraa business in the country. Semakadde hinged his argument on section 89(1) and 89(2) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Act, 2016, which leaves the powers to the Minister of Internal Affairs to act on Miraa.

The State Attorney, Nelly Asiku didn’t object Semakadde’s submissions. “The DPP Concedes that the arrest was illegal and contravenes with section 27 and 28 of the Constitution of Uganda “, Asiku told court. Justice Nyanzi delivered his judgment on the matter this morning setting Mayanja free and directed police to stop arresting people who deal in Miraa until the internal Affairs Ministry declares it illegal.

“Cases of this nature have been coming to court several times and most especially from Entebbe. Its high time Entebbe Court knows that Miraa is not yet prohibited”, said Nyanzi. In 2017, Entebbe Magistrates Court also sentenced Kasper Shotz, a Danish national to 16 years in jail for trafficking in Miraa. Kasper opted to pay a fine and immediately Aviation police.

He later challenged his conviction, which was quashed by Justice Wilson Kwesiga of the High court Criminal Division on similar grounds raised by Justice Nyanzi. Speaking to URN shortly outside the court session, Vincent Kizito, the Chairperson Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association Limited, appealed to the Police leadership to issue circulars to all police stations, informing officers that the sale of Miraa isn’t illegal.

According to Kizito, stopping the sale of Miraa is likely to affect more than 1.8 million of the association who are likely to lose their jobs and source of income.

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