Court Rejects Suspect’s Plea in Illegal Possession of Gov’t Stores Case

The General Court Martial has rejected the plea of guilty entered by Eric Mutabazi, a civilian who is battling charges of unlawful possession of Defense Stores. Mutabazi entered a plea of guilty when he appeared before the Makindye-based military court chaired by Brigadier Freeman Robert Mugabe.

The suspect is a resident of Kitooro village Natete Parish Lubaga Sub-county in Kampala district. He first appeared before the same military court on August 30th, 2022, and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He, however, asked to change his plea to guilty on Tuesday through his lawyers led by Captain Nsubuga Busagwa when the matter came up on Tuesday. As a result, Brigadier Mugabe read him the charges afresh. 

Court heard that on March 17th, 2022 while at his residence, Mutabazi was found in unlawful possession of one pair of the military digital camouflage uniform, one piece of military poncho, two pieces of UPDF ground sheets, one pair of the green beret and one UPDF T-shirt, which are Gazetted as Defense stores.

The Court records show that upon arrest in March 2022, Mutabazi who was produced before the court after spending five months in military custody was also found in possession of two forged UPDF Identity Cards one in the name of Private Joseph Kaziro and another in the name of Captain Eric Mutabazi.

When the charges were for him, Mutabazi confirmed the said items were found in his home but they belonged to his friends, Richard Usama and Robinson Mutabazi, both UPDF soldiers. The Judge Advocate Col. Richard Tukacungurwa advised that charges be read to Mutabazi for the third time since he was pleading guilty to being found in unlawful possession of defense stores but denying that they didn’t belong to him.

The court martial chairperson read Mutabazi the charges again in Runyankole language and he confirmed that he had understood them but insisted that the items were not his. The Judge Advocate said that based on Mutabazi plea and explanation, he seemed to be pleading guilty for the sake of concluding the case very fast without establishing the truth.

Tukacungurwa advised that the Court cannot go ahead and record a plea guilty given such circumstances. He advised the Prosecutors to try the case up to its logical conclusion. Prosecution led by Lt. Col Raphael Mugisha informed the court that the people Mutabazi was mentioning as the owners of the uniforms were with him in Luzira Prison some time back serving a sentence for an offense he didn’t disclose, which explains how they met. 

According to Mugisha, it’s unfortunate that the whereabouts of the two soldiers are unknown to them and the State after their release. The chairman adjourned the matter to November 15th, 2022 for the hearing to commence.

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