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Lawyers yet to access jailed Kaweesi murder suspects

Abdu Rashid Mbaziira and Aramathan Higenyi appearing before court via video conferencing. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The pre-trial conference of suspects in the murder of former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi has flopped at the International Crimes Division of the High Court. This is after the defence lawyers told the court that they have not been able to access two of the suspects currently in prison.

Kaweesi was shot dead together with his bodyguard Kenneth Erau and driver Godfrey Mambewa on March 17, 2017, in Kulambiro, Nakawa division, Kampala.

Eight people were charged with the murder and later granted bail. However, two of the suspects Abdu Rashid Mbaziira and Aramathan Higenyi are in Luzira prison battling other charges of child trafficking.

Those who are out on bail include Bruhan Balyejusa, Shafiq Kasujja, Yusuf Nyanzi, Jibril Kalyango, Joshua Kyambadde and Yusuf Mugerwa.

On Thursday, the defence lawyers led by Anthony Wameli and the State Attorney Marion Ben-Bella met  in Justice Duncan Gaswagga’s chambers and told the court that they have not been able to access their clients in jail to seek their consent on trying them via video conferencing.

The lawyers also wanted the suspects to append their signatures on an application in which they want the charges dismissed on grounds that they were tortured while under the military detention.

According to Wameli, accessing prison was impossible because the orders directing the Commissioner General of Prisons to permit them to access their clients have not yet been signed by the Court Registrar Beatrice Antingu.

Last week, Justice Gaswagga issued an order directing the Commissioner General of Prisons and the officer in charge of Upper Prison to allow the defence lawyers access the suspects while observing the standard operating procedures to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

The order followed a complaint by one of the defence lawyers Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi who argued that the hearing of the case could not go on without the consent of the two accused persons who are still in jail.

Also, one of the accused suspects Higenyi had asked the court to allow them physically participate in their trial on grounds that they can’t ably follow proceedings via video conferencing.

Higenyi said due to the permanent visual and hearing impairments they sustained as a result of torture by the security agencies, it makes it difficult for them to hear augments in court and see properly.

According to the prisons spokesperson Frank Baine, access to their facilities was restricted to stop the spread of COVID-19 pandemic within prisons.

Frank Baine said that ever since the breakout of COVID 19, the prisons have not allowed anybody to access inmates in Luzira. He however added that if they want to access the clients, the lawyers should write to the Commissioner-General.

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