The 33 women of the Inter-party Cooperation (IPC), who are battling charges of holding unlawful society, on Friday asked Buganda Road Grade One Magistrate John Wekesa to disqualify himself from hearing their case after he called them rioters.
The women were on January 18 arrested after the Police foiled a planned demonstration at the Electoral Commission (EC) headquarters on Jinja Road in Kampala. They were protesting the mandate of the EC team, saying it cannot guarantee free and fair polls next year. The women said the magistrate had already shown bias against them.
â€œYou should withdraw from the case because you are not an independent party in the matter. You have called these people rioters. This is already bias,â€ said the womenâ€™s lawyer, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi. Even when the magistrate apologised, saying it was â€œjust a slip of the tongueâ€, the women still demanded that another magistrate be assigned to the case.
Speaking outside court, their leader, Ingrid Turinawe, said they would skip court if the magistrate refused to disqualify himself.
â€œWe wonâ€™t return if Wekesa does not disqualify himself. If they want, let them come to our homes and arrest us again,â€ said Turinawe amid chanting from her colleagues.
Security at the court was heavy, with Anti-Riot Police on alert.
During the court session, Rwakafuuzi raised objections to the case, saying the charge sheet did not explain what exactly the women had done. He argued that there was no documented seal of approval that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) consented to the charges, which is a requirement before prosecution starts.
But the state prosecutor, Stephen Asaba, defended the charge sheet, saying the particulars were clearly spelt out. On the DPPâ€™s consent, he said, this would be done before the state produced its first witness.
IPC women reject magistrate