Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Masaka grade one Magistrate Arthur Ziraba has acquitted National Unity Platform-NUP political party supporters who have been battling charges of inciting violence and committing acts likely to spread the Coronavirus disease Covid-19.
At least 36 people that including leaders and supporters of NUP in Masaka district were arrested on November 18, 2020, shortly after the arrest of their party president and former Presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine while on his campaign trail in Luuka district.
The suspects included among others Florence Namayanja, the Bukoto East constituency MP, Dr. Abed Bwanika, and Juliet Kakande, the MPs elect Kimanya-Kabonera division and Masaka district respectively. They were arrested on suspicion of masterminding the protests in Masaka that followed the arrest Kyagulanyi.
According to the prosecution, the suspects were arrested in police operations after they were found in breach of the Covid-19 preventive guidelines and coordinating protests in the area. However, after repeated adjournments due to the prosecution’s failure to adduce the required evidence against the suspects the trial magistrate decided to dismiss the case.
During the court proceedings, Senior State Attorney, Caroline Opio told court that she had a list of witnesses that included the Masaka Regional Police commander, Enock Abaine, Sergeant Godfrey Juma, the head of the police political desk and detective innocent Musinguzi. She, however, failed to produce any of them before court whenever needed.
In his ruling, Ziraba, castigated police for congesting courts with unfounded cases whose prosecution they cannot support with evidence. The magistrate indicated that after the court making several adjournments to grant the prosecution time to present evidence in vain, there was no need to continue with the matter.
Alexander Lule, the lawyer of the accused persons also blamed the key witnesses for what he described as dumping cases into court and failing to follow them up. He wondered how police officers who were recorded on file as key witnesses failed to show up to support prosecution in a suit they initiated.
Some of the suspects indicated their intentions to pursue the individual police officers for malicious prosecution and torturing them during the arrest.