The pretrial of the two embattled legislators in Uganda, Hon. Ssegirinya Muhammad of Kawempe North and Hon. Allan Ssewanyana of Makindye West seems to be setting pace for a futile trial after lawyers appear to be suspicious of the ghost witnesses and concocted evidence.
“For a fact, they have taken over a year, trying to investigate a case and even bringing witnesses is a problem to them, and now they want court to give us only 15 days with in which to do all the research and look at how to challenge witnesses; it is actually the state playing hide and seek to delay the case,” argued Counsel Shamim Malende who is one of the lawyers for the incarcerated MPs and also woman Member of Parliament Kampala district.
This comes after defense team comprising the Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, Kampala Woman MP Counsel Shamim Malende, Counsel Samuel Muyizzi and others filed an application seeking the International Crimes Division of the High Court to refer their appeal against the previous rulings made by the same court to the constitutional court.
On October 3, the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala upheld the ex-parte application by the state that sought for the protection of 17 witnesses and later on October 5, the same court also dismissed an application by the defense legal team of the incarcerated legislators that sought for consolidation of charges in Masaka High Court and those of ICD.
“And we are really concerned with that because it will occasion the miscarriage of justice if the identity of these critical witnesses is hidden, and, that has got far reaching effects in terms of implicating the two legislators,” said Erias Lukwago.
Though the Prosecution team led by Chief Prosecutor Richard Birivumbuka challenged the defense team to directly file their appeal in the Constitutional court, the defense team insisted on the reference by the ICD for it was once tried with the appeal against the denial of bail by Masaka High Court, which the constitutional court struck out.
Why Run to the Constitutional Court?
According to the defense legal team, the previous decisions by the ICD contravene articles 28, 42, 44 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution, which prescribe rights to fair hearing, speedy trials and protection of human rights and fundamental freedom of Ugandans.
“That does not argue well with the dictates of the constitution in article 28, which guard against the double jeopardy and does not in any way accord the right to a fair hearing to the accused person because in assembling the defense, we don’t have to be embarrassed with multiplicity of proceedings,” added Lukwago.
The lawyers further questioned the rationale of the Prosecution’s concealing of the information and identities of all the witnesses.
“If they are not fake and fabricated to keep the honourable MPs in incarceration, why can’t they be disclosed?” questioned Erias Lukwago, one of the lawyers for the detained legislators.
Much as the incarcerated MPs are charged with several others; Jude Muwonge, Jackson Kanyike, John Mugerwa, Bull Wamala and Mike Serwaada, there are suspects whose charges have confused the Judge.
A case in point is A2/accused2, Jude Muwonge. Yesterday, after the presiding Judge Alice Komuhangi Kaukha finding that the suspect is not included on the charge sheet, with no clear explanation from the state on how he ended up at ICD, the judge ordered the prison authorities not again to arrain him before the ICD but did not discharge him even when Muwonge pleaded innocent.
All these are mysteries that hovering the charges, the Witness, the co-accused and every other thing that is associated with the charges of murder, terrorism, attempted murder and abating terrorism as imposed on the two legislators.
The Judge therefore set October 13 for the ruling on the defense legal team’s application for reference of an appeal to the constitutional court. But, whatever the decision that the ICD will pronounce, lawyers call them phenomena that are not allowed in constitutional jurisprudence.
But, right now, the defense legal team is timid of how they will defend their clients during the trial when first challenging the witnesses and the evidence pinning their clients would be of a great help on their side.
The two members of parliament have been in prison for more than a year on fabricated charges.