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Stella Nyanzi loses bid to block judgment

By Douglas Mubiru

Added 1st August 2019 06:38 AM

The judge noted that closure of the defence case did not in any way cause a miscarriage of justice on the case of the accused

Stella Nyanzi loses bid to block judgment

Dr Stella Nyanzi confers with her lawyer Isaac Semakadde at the High Court on Wednesday. Photo by Wilfred Sanya

The judge noted that closure of the defence case did not in any way cause a miscarriage of justice on the case of the accused

The High Court has dismissed an application in which former Makerere University researcher Dr Stella Nyanzi who is indicted with offensive communication and cyber harassment against President Yoweri Museveni wanted the lower court proceedings quashed.

Nyanzi through her lawyers Julius Galisonga, Isaac Ssemakadde and Derrick Bazekuketta were accusing the trial Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu of expressing bias towards their client when she closed the case without her defence.  

On Wednesday, however Justice Jane Frances Abodo ruled that the bias allegations against the trial Magistrate were unjustified.

"In the circumstances and drawing from the record, I find the allegation of bias against the trial magistrate is unjustified. In the final result, this application fails and I order that the file be transmitted back to the trial magistrate to hear the above case conclusively within a reasonable time so as to meet the ends of justice," Abodo ruled

The judge noted that closure of the defence case did not in any way cause a miscarriage of justice on the case of the accused person.

"The learned trial magistrate's acts of closing the defence case after giving them seven adjournments within which to prepare its case and produce defence witnesses did not in any way cause a miscarriage of justice on the case of the accused person," she said.

However, the judge agreed with Nyanzi's lawyers that service of summons was supposed to be issued by court but not her lawyers as it was done.

The offence of cyber harassment elicits a maximum sentence of three-years- imprisonment on conviction, while offensive communication one-year jail term.

By the time Nyanzi petitioned the court, the magistrate had fixed on August 1 to give her judgment in the matter. 

Early this month, Kamasanyu closed the case without Nyanzi's defence, noting that she had failed to produce her witnesses despite several court reminders.

"Court is aware that the accused is at liberty to call witnesses to defend herself. However, this is the seventh time the matter is coming up for defence hearing but in vain. Therefore, the court takes it that the accused has no witness and it is left with no choice but to close the case," Kamasanyu ruled.

Nyanzi was last month ordered to defend herself against the allegations but she opted to remain silent and summon witnesses to defend her.

This was after the prosecution led by Janat Kitimbo produced three witnesses in court including city lawyer Charles Dalton Opwonya who implored Nyanzi to refrain from obscene and vulgar posts, noting that they are not good for public consumption and against Buganda culture.

"I was an admirer of Nyanzi's poetic style of writing but I was shocked on September 21, 2018, to find an obscene post on her wall," Opwonya testified.

Nyanzi who has been on remand since November last year listed over 20 witnesses including President Yoweri Museveni who is said to be the complainant in the matter.  

Others were CID director Grace Akullo, Dr Ronald Kakungulu Mayambala, Eng. Frank Kitumba, Mustapha Mugisha, Dr Sylvester Kahyana, Dr James Ociti, Dr Susan Kiguli and Prof. Abas Kiyimba.

Dr Sylvia Tamale, the coordinator of gender, law and sexuality at Makerere University, Prof. Fredrick Jjuuko, Allan Tacca, Solomy Nakaweesi, Bishop Zac David Niringiye, Fr Gaetano Batanyenda and Mildred Apenyo, a daughter of city lawyer Charles Dalton Opwonya were the others.

However, the court declined to summon President Yoweri Museveni, saying a head of state cannot be compelled to appear before it.

It is only Bernabus Mustapha Mugisa, a private certified hacking forensic investigator who appeared in court but declined to testify in the matter, saying he does not understand the case.

The charge

Prosecution alleges that on September 16, 2018, Nyanzi posted on her Facebook page indecent words against the president and his late mother Esteeri Kokundeka.

According to the state, the said posts were intended to disturb their peace and right to privacy.

On April 10, 2017, Nyanzi was also charged in the same court with the same offences but her trial never kicked off.

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