By Rogers Sunday in Bundibugyo
THE UPDF General Court Martial sitting at Bundibugyo District Headquarters rejected the release of Yeremia Mutooro, the Rwenzururu Kingdom Deputy Premier and Bwambale Asanasio the Chairman LC III of Kirumya Sub County.
The court was in the district for mention of charges against the 125 accused persons who have been on remand in Katojo government prison since July 15th.
The duo, alongside 123 others are facing charges of murder, attempted murder, unlawful acquisition of firearms, unlawful acquisition of ammunition, offences relating to security and offences relating to guard duties in connection with the July 5th attacks in the Western districts of Bundibugyo and Ntoroko.
Defence Counsel for the accused, Collins Achellam, a private lawyer, had cited Article 23 (6) (a) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995 and Section 219 of the UPDF Act No.7 of 2005 to file the bail applications on behalf of the two.
He argued that both the accused Yeremia Mutooro and Bwambale Asanasio will not abscond from trial, the offences they are charged with are bailable before the court, they have no previous criminal records, are responsible people with families and dependents who depend on them for necessities of life.
He added that the applicants had ailments; Mutooro being hypertensive (he attached copies of medical reports from Mulago Hospital to the bail application) and Bwambale, he alleged is diabetic, has high blood pressure and ulcers (he also attached medical reports from Bundibugyo hospital) and therefore required special medical attention.
He also said the two were of advanced age (68 and 55 respectively) and may therefore not survive the prison conditions, they have fixed places of aboard in Bundibugyo, will not interfere with state investigations, will always be available when court requires them to and will produce credible sureties at an appropriate time.
None of them had sureties at the moment. Above all, Achellam argued that the accused were still innocent until proven guilty and it was therefore unfair to try them while on remand.
In response, the State prosecution side, led by Lead Prosecutor Capt Fredrick Kangwamu objected to immediate honouring of the application.
Capt Kangwamu argued that both applications were submitted late, when court was already sitting.
He added that the applications had several appendices and annexures for which they needed time to read, internalize and verify their authenticity.
The state prosecutor requested for an adjournment of three weeks to enable them do this and file a written response to court and defence adding that this would also give the applicants time to bring sureties, since they did not have them at the moment.
After two brief adjournments for deliberations, the court chaired by Maj Gen Levi Karuhanga ruled that the prosecution be allowed time to read the applications and file a written response.
The matter was adjourned to 25th August 2014. Prosecution was additionally directed to be ready to commence hearing of the cases against the 125 accused, who were further remanded till the same date. Prosecution had submitted that investigations into the cases were not yet complete and had requested for an adjournment of 3 weeks.
Earlier, four Lawyers commissioned by the Uganda Law Society to represent 104 of the suspects on pro bono (free legal services) were blocked from doing so on grounds that they had not complied with Regulation 77(3) of the UPDF General Court Martial Rules of Procedure, which requires private lawyers to file notices of instructions to represent accused persons in the court, at least 24 hours prior to the court sitting.
The same lawyers had however three days earlier been cleared to represent the suspects in Kasese, when the court sat there from 5th to 7th Jul, though they walked out on the second day following the court’s rejection of their prayer to suspend the trial of the accused 57 persons.
The Court Registrar Capt Bizimana said the notice filed in respect to the Kasese case could not admit the group to the Bundibugyo session, since these were different case files.
Attempts by the group leader Kiiza Aaron to file the notice as a soft copy, which he had on his ipad, were turned down by the court on grounds that it did not bear a stamp. They were advised to attend court only in observer capacity till they fully comply with the requirements of filing the notices of instructions to represent the suspects.