A former foreign affairs ministry official convicted of embezzling sh223m has been acquitted by the Supreme Court.
Sarah Bireete had been sentenced to 10 years in jail for embezzling sh223m, meant for the Great Lakes Region Conference in 2009.
In 2016, the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction but Bireete appealed to the Supreme Court on grounds that Court of Appeal had erred.
Justices Esther Kisaakye, Eldad Mwangushya, Lillian Tibatemwa, Opio Aweri and Paul Mugamba, who presided over the case, found Bireete not guilty and quashed the conviction and sentence.
The prosecution, led by Lillian Omara of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, had informed the court that Bireete embezzled the sh223m when she was a national co-ordinator for the International Conference of the Great Lakes region. The case has been in court since 2009.
During the acquittal, the judges noted that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Bireete abused her office while working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Since we have already held that the prosecution did not prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, this appeal is allowed with the following orders, the conviction for embezzlement is quashed," Kisaakye said.
"The sentence of 10 years imprisonment, as well as the order to refund $70.160 (about sh265,977), is set aside. The order barring the appellant from public service for a period of 10 years is also set aside."
The Supreme Court justices further noted that the Court of Appeal shifted the burden of proof against Bireete, contrary to a fundamental principle in criminal law that burden of proof is borne by the prosecution throughout the trial.
Court said the evidence presented by the prosecution did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the missing funds were ever in her possession.
The justices also noted that there was no evidence that Bireete played a role in the withdrawal and disbursement of the money as had been claimed by the prosecution.