Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Two judges attached to the High Court in Masaka have refrained from hearing bail applications filed by Members of Parliament Allan Ssewanyana and Muhammad Ssegirinya.
The two legislators were arrested and detained on charges of murder, attempted murder, and aiding and abetting terrorism, stemming from their alleged involvement in the recent killings in the greater Masaka region which claimed more than 25 lives between July and September this year.
Although the two legislators had been granted bail, they were re-arrested in separate events from the precincts of Kigo prison, where they are still detained. Early last week, the duo, through their lawyers filed another set of applications seeking to be granted bail.
But yesterday, Masaka High Court Resident Judge Victoria Nakintu Katamba and the circuit support judge Lawrence Twewanze abstained from hearing the bail application citing the complexity of the case file. Sources at Masaka High court that spoke to Uganda Radio Network on condition of anonymity indicated that the two judges deliberately avoided hearing the bail applications because the matter has become too sensitive.
The source reveals that the files were first allocated to lady Justice Nakintu who earlier granted the accused MPs a 20-million Shillings cash bail, but she declined to hear the application, casting doubt on whether her decisions will be respected. Similarly, according to sources, Justice Lawrence Tweyanze who was posted to Masaka High Court circuit a fortnight ago also noted that he was not willing to start with a highly controversial matter, preferring the applications are returned to the Resident Judge who earlier handled the matter.
Agnes Nkonge, the Masaka High Court Registrar confirms that the files have not yet been allocated to a judge, although she remained hesitant to explain the apparent delay to have applications heard. Nkonge however indicated that she has sought guidance from the Principal Judge on how to appropriately deal with the controversy.
Shamim Malende, a lawyer to the incarcerated MPs indicates that they have also noted the sluggishness with which their case file is being handled and describes it as institutionalized intimidation within the judiciary by the state. She however explains that they have sought audience with the Principal Judge to present their concerns, as well as praying that he grants permission to any judge outside the jurisdiction of Masaka High Circuit to hear the bail applications.
On Monday, the two MPs alongside the other five co-accused persons appeared before Masaka Grade One Magistrate Grace Wakooli for further mention of their case through virtual conferencing channels from Kigo and Kitalya prisons. They were further remanded up to October 27 when they will return to be informed about the progress of investigations into their files.