Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Detained Supreme Commander of the Allied Democratic Front Jamil Mukulu and two of his co-accused who are facing terrorism related charges have refused to appear before the International Crimes Division of High Court. This is because they were protesting the decision by the three Judges to try them via video conferencing.
The Judges are Lydia Mugambe, Susan Okalany and Michael Elubu who are heading the panel.
The panel was supposed to commence the trial of Mukulu and 37 others who are facing a string of charges related to terrorism, murder, aggravated robbery, attempted murder among others.
But one of the senior prisons officer who appeared via a video link connecting to Luzira prison informed court presided over by the Deputy Registrar Beatrice Atingu that Mukulu and two others had refused to come saying that unless they are brought to court physically, they will not appear via video conferencing.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Judiciary opted to try all inmates via video conferencing to stop them from mingling with the public so as to avoid the spread of the virus which has so far killed hundreds of people in the country.
But the accused lawyers led by Anthony Wameli noted that since the lockdown started, they have been unable to meet their clients.
He added that they wanted to file an application challenging the gross human rights violations occasioned to some of the accused during the process of their arrest and extradition from Tanzania as well as inside Luzira upper prison where they are being detained.
But to Wameli, this has not been possible since the accused cannot be met to append signatures on the necessary documents as well as to be consulted on the same issue.
Court also heard that while using video conferencing, the accused cannot whisper some secrets to their lawyers and at times the prison officers mute the microphones if at all an inmate starts talking about issues that are not good in the prisons.
Meanwhile, some of the accused complained that the courts have recently issued numerous orders directing prisons to allow their lawyers gain access. But there has also been numerous contempt by the prison.
As a result, the Deputy Registrar Atingu informed them that the lawyers would gain access to them and that the rest of the issues will be looked at by the trial Judges.
Atingu later set four consecutive hearing dates starting January 25, 2021.
The prosecution alleges that between 2011 and 2014, the 37 accused persons under the command of Mukulu acquired firearms and training in neighboring countries and funding for economic, social, political and religious reasons.
Mukulu and his group are also accused of murdering Muslim clerics, Sheikh Yunus Abubaker Mandanga and the top Shia Cleric Dakitoor Muwaya who was gunned down under Mukulu’s command before his group reportedly attacked Bugiri police station and killed two police officers Karim Tenywa and Muzamir Babale.
The accused were arrested from various places in Uganda and Tanzania between 2014 and 2015 on charges dating back to 1998 when suspected ADF rebels attacked Kichwamba Technical Institute and killed more than 80 students.
In September 2019, the pretrial conference Judge Eva Luswata committed them to face trial and since then they have not been tried.
The other accused persons are: Ali Kabambwe alias Munakenya, Abdallah Sharif Ali Salim alias Mukyotala, Musa Nabangi, Adam Diin Bashiri alias Wabula, Sheikh Ahamed Rashid Wasiga, Cpl. Alex Martin Engwau, Sgt. John Owori, Sheikh Ibrahim Badru Wanjala, Amis Adam, Abdul Malik Kabaale, Muzahamu Ndifuna and Ibrahim Kyessa.
Others are; Yakubu Kyessa, Muhammad Muruya, Abdallah Waniala, Abduswabul Kimbugwe, Muhammad Mbuya, Muhammad Kiryagana, Abdurahamani Muyaga, Muhammad Matovu, Omar Abdallah Mutuka, Amis Sowedi, Zaidi Kambo, Musa Kaala, Mansuudi Kisambira, Isa Kayira, Hassan Wasswa, Abdallah Kirwani, Daniel Wanyama, Abdul Ddungu, Robert Wandera, and Umayiya Kikomeko.