By Michael Odeng
EIGHT opposition leaders including former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president, Kizza Besigye have asked court to dismiss their charges because of trial delays.
The suspects face eight counts of managing unlawful society, being a member of unlawful society, allowing meetings to be held in different premises and uttering a speech calculated to encourage support of unlawful society.
The leaders through their lawyer Ernest Kalibala on Tuesday told court presided over by Buganda Road chief magistrate Lillian Buchyana that the charges are too ordinary to require high level of expertise to investigate.
“The suspects have appeared in court over nine (9) times and state still claims the file is with the DPP. This is persecution rather than prosecution,” Kalibala stated. The suspects were charged on July 4, 2013.
They leaders include: Mathias Mpuuga (MP Masaka Municipality), Ingrid Turinawe (chairperson FDC women league), Asuman Basaalirwa (JEEMA Party president), Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala County MP), Francis Mwijukye (FDC youth mobiliser), Mubarak Munyagwa (Kawempe Division mayor) and Chaapa Karuhanga (former presidential candidate).
Prosecution led by Lillian Omara alleges that the suspects between April 20, 2012 and January 23, 2013 in different locations in Uganda, and others still at large, managed an unlawful society called ‘For God and My Country’ (4GC).
It further alleged that in the same period they held themselves as members of an unlawful society. Karuhanga faces a separate charge of allegedly allowing a meeting to be held at his place of residence.
Kalibala requested court to set the leaders free after state prosecutor Lillian Omara asked for an adjournment with pretext that the file is with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). She also said that investigations into the matter were incomplete.
Kalibala urged that the DPP’s actions contravened Article 28 (1) of the Constitution which requires the courts to be fair and accord an impartial hearing and to be independent during the whole trial.
This prompted the trial magistrate to set August 29, 2014 as the date when she will rule on whether to dismiss the case or start trial.
“Criminal trials should be tried in the presence of the accused persons. You should make sure they appear in court that day to receive their ruling,” Buchyana said.
Shortly after the 2011 presidential elections, several opposition leaders started the Walk to Work campaign to show dissatisfaction against the rising cost of essential commodities. The police swung into action and broke up the processions led by the opposition leaders, saying they were unlawful.