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High court declines to hear bail application of 36 army-jailed NUP supporters

Some of the NUP supporters arrive at the army court

Some of the NUP supporters arrive at the army court

The High court has declined to hear the bail application for 36 supporters National Unity Platform (NUP) party supporters who are battling charges of illegal possession of military stores in the Army General Court Martial.

The suspects are; Ali Bukeni alias Nubian Li, Edward Ssebuufu alias Eddie Mutwe, Hassan Ssemakula alias Abdul Souldier, Kenny Kyalimpa, Mudde Ntambi, William Nyanzi alias Mbogo, Lukeman Mwijukye alias Kampala, Muhammad Nsubuga alias Eddoboozi, Adam Matovu, Shakirah Nambozo alias Sukie, Ibrahim Tamale, Muzafuru Mwanje alias Main Gate alias Muwa, Ismail Nyanzi Kaddu, Achileo Kivumbi, Joseph Onzima alias Tawa, Anthony Agaba alias Bobi Young and Robert Kivumbi alias Mighty Family.

The others are Samson Ssekiranda alias Giant, Sharifa Najja alias Don Sharifa , Brian Ssemanda alias Director Museveni Must Go, Robert Katumba, Faisol Kigongo alias Ras Fazo, Musa Mulimira, Sam Mutumba alias Papa Sam, Richard Kalema alias Ricardo, Alex Karamagi alias Doggy City, Daniel Onywerot alias Dan Magic, Hussein Mukasa alias OShea,  Johnbosco Sunday alias JB, Isma Muganga alias Jaja Isma, Fahad Tamale and Bashir Murusha.

The suspects are part of 49 NUP supporters who were arrested during the campaign trail of the former NUP Presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu in Kalangala district in December last year. They appeared before the Masaka chief magistrate after spending three days in custody, which granted them bail.

However, they were re-arrested and presented before the Court Martial for illegal possession of ammunition. On February 5, 2021, the Army court chaired by Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti declined to release the accused on bail on grounds that they would continue perpetrating acts of violence once released.  

The accused’s lawyers led by George Musisi filed another bail application in the High court on a number of grounds. They argued that bail is a constitutional right and that the accused had substantial sureties and permanent places of residence, which fall within the jurisdictions of the High court.

However, the deputy registrar of the Criminal Division of High court, Festo Nsenga has written to the suspects’ lawyer saying that they are unable to entertain their application.

“...We have studied both your pleadings and the Authority of Hon Michael Andrew Kabaziguruka Vs Uganda, HC/CR/MA/258/2016 attached to your letter above, and have concluded that since your application arises from a case before another court (the General Court Martial), and in view of our more recent decision of Haji Abdallah Kitatta Vs Uganda HC/CR/MA/43/2018 (that is available online), we cannot entertain your Application”, reads the letter in part.

In his March 3, 2021 letter, a copy which URN has seen, the registrar adds that their file has consequently been closed and that their pleadings returned. In Kitatta’s case, High court Judge Wilson Kwesiga struck off his application for bail on grounds that it had been filed before the wrong court.

The judge reasoned that “for any court to exercise its discretion to grant bail, it should be fully possessed with the facts and the circumstances obtaining at the pending trial”.  

“I have also considered the views that the High court has unlimited jurisdiction overall the offences under trial however, bail is not an offence but a discretional procedural relief that is inter-locutory and the court handling the trial is the most appropriate to grant it after considering all the circumstances of the case as a whole,” said Kwesiga. 

However, in an earlier case, High court judge Yasin Nyanzi granted Michael Kabaziguruka bail after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had declined to attend proceedings on grounds he can’t be a party to proceedings in the General Court Martial.

The judge held that a court cannot be approached by someone who is seeking justice and it decides to fold its arms more so when the DPP had not opposed the case.

Following the registrar’s response, the accused’s lawyer, George Musisi, said they intend to return to the head of the High Court Criminal Division to discuss some issues in the law before deciding their next course of action.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd