Kasese, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Two suspects who pleaded guilty to killing six lions and ten vultures before the Utilities, Wildlife and Standards Court in Kampala have made a U-turn. They are Vincent Tumuhirwe and Robert Ariyo, a farmer and Boda Boda rider respectively from Kanungu District.
The two appeared last month before Miriam Ayo Eddy Okello, the Chief Magistrate of the Utilities, Wildlife and Standards Court. They were charged with entering a protected area without permission, hunting wild animal in a wildlife conservation area without permission, killing wild animals and protected wildlife species in a wildlife conservation area without permission.
The suspects pleaded guilty to four charges but denied killing ten vultures and were remanded to Kitalya prisons. The Prosecution alleges that between March 17th and 19th, 2021 the accused persons illegally entered Habugombwa Kob Mating Ground Ishasha Sector Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kanungu District. They allegedly hunted and killed six climbing lions and ten white vultures through poisoning.
According to the prosecution, the suspects were found in possession of four heads of lions, fifteen legs of lions, one tail of a lion and a three-litre jerrican of lion fats without a valid wildlife use right. However, on Wednesday, the suspects changed their plea from guilty to not guilty before the State Prosecutors Joan Keko and Annet Tuhaisomwe could read for them the brief facts of the case.
The suspects told the court that they pleaded guilty the first time they appeared because of torture. They also claimed that they were coerced to confess to the crimes, adding that the arresting officers brought the items they claim to have been found with.
As a result, the magistrate directed that the charges be read for the suspects afresh, which was done by detective Assistant Inspector of Police, Erasmus Twinamatsiko in their native Rukiiga language. She further remanded the accused up to April 28th 2021.