Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The lawyers of 32 National Unity Platform-NUP supporters battling charges of illegal possession of explosive devices have asked the General Court Martial to release them on bail.
The suspects are Yasin Ssekitoleko alias Machete, Robert Christopher Rugumayo, Ronald Mayiga, Muhydin Kakooza, Patrick Mwase, Simon Kijambo, Abdu Matovu, Richard Nyombi, Olivia Lutaaya, Ronald Kijambo, Sharif Kalanzi, Joseph Muwonge, Mesach Kiwanuka, Abdalla Kintu, Umar Emma Kato and Musa Kavuma.
Others are Ibrahim Wandera, Asbert Nagwere, Steven Musakulu, Jimmy Galukande, Paul Muwanguzi, Kenneth Kamanya, Sharif Matovu, Shafiq Ngobi, Davis Mafabi, Abdallah Hakim Gibusiwa, Livingstone Katushabe Kigozi, Swaibu Katabi, Obalai Siraji Mudebo, Joseph Muganza and Stanley Lwanga.
Military prosecutors accuse the suspects together with others still at large of being found in illegal possession of 13 explosive devices, which are ordinarily the monopoly of the defense forces. According to the prosecution, the suspects committed the offenses between November 2020 and May 2021 in Jinja, Mbale, Kireka, Nakulabye, Kawempe, Natete, and Kampala Central.
The suspects who have been on remand since June 2021 appeared on Monday before Lt. General Andrew Gutti of the General Court-martial to get an update on the status of the investigations into the charges against them. Military prosecutors led by Major Emmy Ekyaruhanga told the army court that investigations into the matter are still ongoing and asked the court for an adjournment until next month.
However, the suspects through their lawyers led by George Musisi protested the prayers by the prosecution, saying that they have spent more than eight months on remand without the prosecution informing them when the investigations will be complete.
Musisi asked the military court to release his clients on bail, saying that the law provides that when suspects spend more than six months without trial, they qualify for mandatory bail.
He explained that his clients have substantial sureties who are ready to stand surety for them and ensure they return to court when needed. He however couldn’t present a formal application yet the procedures in the general court-martial require applicants to present a written application and serve the prosecutors to enable them to file a written response. Lt. Alex Rasto Mukhwana, one of the court prosecutors objected to the prayers made by the defense lawyers, saying that they are omnibus and outside the procedures of the General Court Martial.
In response, another defense lawyer, Elizabeth Nyansingwa asked the court to direct the prosecutors to expedite the investigations, arguing that the continued detention of the suspects without trial infringes on their rights to an expeditious trial. Lt. General Gutti agreed with the defense lawyers and ordered the prosecutors to expedite the investigations, saying that they shouldn’t turn it into a song to tell the court every time that investigations are incomplete.
Gutti also directed the defense lawyers to make a formal application for bail such that it can be heard on February 15th, 2022. He further remanded the accused persons to Kitalya government prisons and the only female suspect in the case Lutaaya to Kigo prison until then. Speaking to Uganda Radio Network shortly after the court session, Musisi noted that they filed a formal application and it was fixed for hearing today.
However, a copy of the application seen by URN shows that it was filed in the morning shortly before the start of the session and was received by Captain Ambroz Guma on behalf of the prosecution. The defense lawyers neither put it to the attention of that court that they had made a formal application and served the prosecutors. Musisi insisted that the prosecution was already prepared to adjourn despite their formal application.
On her part, Dr. Lina Zedriga, the Vice President for the National Unity Platform in Charge of Northern Uganda said that it was not fair for the Court Martial to further adjourn the case when their supporters have been on remand for so long yet they are civilians who are not supposed to be subjected to military law.
Trouble for the accused persons started when UPDF accused them of plotting to stage petrol bomb attacks targeting government vehicles and buildings in various places in the country ahead of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony in May 2021, whom they reportedly never wanted to be sworn in. It came after Museveni defeated the NUP President Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu in the January 2021 polls.
Police later claimed that the suspects masterminded attacks on Kasubi Royal Tombs, former Jinja Resident City Commissioner Eric Sakwa in Nakulabye, Uganda Registration Services Bureau, and Katwe police station among others to express their dissatisfaction with the polls. The suspects were picked by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.