The minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu Kimono has asked the Anti-Corruption court to grant her permission to leave the country so as to go and execute state obligations.
Kitutu, who is jointly charged with her brother, Michael Naboya Kitutu, and her personal assistant Joshua Abaho today Friday appeared before justice Jane Okuo Kajuga following her application filed earlier on Wednesday via the electronic system.
Through her lawyer, Jude Byamukama, she told court that she was granted bail on April 14, 2023, by chief magistrate, Joan Aciro and committed to face trial on June 29, 2023, and that her right to free movement cannot be restricted because she is still presumed innocent.
She argues that as a minister for Karamoja Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), she is required to attend high-level meetings and conferences both within and outside Uganda on behalf of the government of Uganda.
Records show that Kitutu has been formally invited and cleared by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja to travel to London, United Kingdom for 13 days to attend the 10th anniversary of Inzu Yamasaba UK from November 23 to December 5, 2023.
"The applicant deems these scheduled high-level meetings and many others of great significance and is part of her official duties and responsibilities that require constant travel outside the jurisdiction from time to time," her lawyer submitted.
Byamukama told court that Kitutu would not abscond from the trial because she had already demonstrated her commitment to this criminal matter by attending all previous court hearing sessions. The court also heard that Kitutu is married, has parliamentary responsibilities of serving and representing the people of Manafwa as their Woman MP, and possesses sureties that will ensure that she doesn't abscond from court obligations.
However, in response, the prosecution led by state attorney Jonathan Muwaganya asked the court to dismiss the application, saying that Kitutu’s absence would likely cause technical difficulties in the determination of her application seeking to enforce her human rights.
Besides this, Muwaganya said her absence will also cause undue delay to the criminal case which has two other accused persons who have a right to a fair and expeditious trial. Muwaganya was relying on an affidavit by Sarafina Bireke, a senior state attorney in the office of the director of public prosecutions (DPP) who says that Kitutu going for travels is personal in nature and not a matter of necessity.
"The applicant cannot practically attend both events, that is the Imuka event between November 23rd to December 5th, 2023 in London and the NFP event between November 24th to December 12th, 2023 in Dubai," said Muwaganya.
According to Muwaganya, court business takes precedence over all other businesses except in exceptional circumstances, and on September 22, 2023, Kitutu was in court but never raised any concerns about her likely absence from the court on the dates in issue.
The court has heard that there is no evidence adduced to justify the grant of permission to travel and in the interest of justice, the application should be dismissed. The judge fixed October 3 as the date for ruling on the matter. The criminal trial for Kitutu and her co-accused has since stalled after it was halted to first resolve the issue of whether she was tortured in state custody.
The prosecution alleges that between the months of June 2022 and January 2023 at the OPM stores, Namanve, Mukono district, Kitutu caused the loss of public property in the form of 9,000 prepainted iron sheets by diverting them from the intended purpose of benefiting the Karamoja Community Empowerment Program to her own benefit and to the benefit of third parties having reason to believe that such act would lead into loss of the said property.
It is also alleged that while at the same place, in January 2023, Kitutu and her personal assistant, Abaho diverted 5,500 iron sheets for unrelated purposes and they ended up being received by third parties yet he was charged with the duty of keeping them in good and safe custody as the receiver.
According to the prosecution, Kitutu's brother, Naboya received 100 pieces of iron sheets while in Namisindwa district which was part of those that the minister and Abaho had connived to divert.