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Mabirizi fails to proceed in court over hunger

Mabirizi in court. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Jailed lawyer Male Mabirizi has today failed to continue with the offensive communication case against him before Buganda Road Magistrates Court citing hunger and persecution in prison.

This case was instituted against him by lawyer Robert Rutaro Muhairwe as a private prosecutor.

The case was instituted a few days after the High Court Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana had sent Mabirizi to Kitalya Mini Max Prison in February 2022 to serve an 18 months jail term for having been found guilty for contempt of court because of using his social media platforms to abuse judicial officers.

In his criminal case, Rutaro accuses Mabirizi of using his social media platforms to abuse Ssekaana by making posts that were reportedly meant to reduce the Judge’s self-esteem and to embarrass him in front of the right-thinking members of society shortly after he had made a decision to jail him.

Muhairwe asked the  court to convict Mabirizi and send him to prison on charges of offensive communication, criminal libel, and offenses prejudicial to judicial proceedings despite the fact that he is already in jail for contempt of court.

But last month, the State Attorneys from the office of the Director of Public Prosecution asked to take over Rutaro’s  case. However, Mabirizi objected saying among other things that the planned take over is illegal because the Buganda Road Court lacks jurisdiction to try him on the offenses of offensive communication.

The State Attorneys led by Ivan Kyazze and Joan Keko were today expected to make a response to Mabirizi’s objection before the court presided over by Grade One Magistrate Sanula Nambozo.

When the matter came, Mabirizi said he wasn’t ready to proceed with the case because he is hungry and not in a proper state of body and mind.

According to Mabirizi, the whole of yesterday( Monday) he didn’t eat anything because he was brought from Kitalya Min Max Prison in Wakiso district and taken to the High Court where he was following up some of his other cases. But afterwards, he was taken to Luzira Maximum Security Upper Prison where he spent a night without eating anything up to now.

He told court that everything at Luzira Upper Prison is a mess on grounds that he cannot see anything that side, no mattress to sleep on, and he was reportedly feeling too dizzy to stand in court.

Mabirizi said he left all his food at Kitalya including boxes of biscuits and that he had paid for food for ten days and also paid 7,000 shillings for chapati.

But said he wasn’t informed that he is being transferred to Luzira Maximum Security Prison, adding that his committal documents show that he had to serve his sentence from Kitalya Prison.

According to Mabirizi, all this is persecution from the prison because of having obtained a High Court order in which the Officer in Charge of Kitalya, Superintendent of Prison Hussein Aikomundu was directed to return all the documents he had confiscated from him.

The documents in question were related to a case in which Mabirizi wants the bail of Pastor Aloysius Bujjingo and his fiance Susan Makula, canceled for having been granted without giving him a right to be heard in the case where he accuses the couple for bigamy.

According to Mabirizi, the documents were confiscated as the prisons looked for his March 31st letter to the Secretary of Cabinet seeking to put in place a tribunal to remove Musa Ssekaana from office as a High Court Judge over incompetence.

As such, Mabirizi who looked unusually emotional and on the verge of shedding tears in court pleaded with the Magistrate to either direct that he goes back to Kitalya Prison, or at least be taken to Luzira Murchison Bay Prison on the basis that his jail term is not like for criminals but instead arises from civil matters.

The court has heard that Mabirizi is most likely to die in the Maximum Security Prison if at all his prayer is not granted because he feels his right to life is being threatened.

In response, the State Attorneys led by Keko informed court that Mabirizi’s prayer arises from a civil matter from the High Court and therefore it would not be proper for them to concede to his request or object to it. Keko informed court that this is a civil matter, and it would require that it goes back to the High Court and  Attorney General responds to it.

The Magistrate Nambozo later took a break of one hour to write her ruling. But she returned after more than two hours saying she was unable to deliver it because she got caught up with other matters. She thus asked Mabirizi to bear with the court and return tomorrow for the decision.

When contacted, the spokesperson of Uganda Prisons Services Frank Baine, indicated that under the Uganda Prisons  Services Act, the discretion to transfer an inmate from one prison to another either for security or medical reasons rests with the Commissioner General of Prisons.

He hastened to add however that when a prisoner goes to court, they do not budget for them lunch that day and that Mabirizi could have been brought to Luzira at the time when other inmates had finished eating.

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