Rwenzururu Palace Attack: Six out of 49 Suspects Granted Bail

The International Crimes Division of the High Court has granted bail to six out of 49 suspects who are part of the Rwenzururu royalists arrested following the 2016 clashes with joint security forces in the Buhikira Palace of the Rwenzururu Kingdom in Kasese district. 

At least 221 Rwenzururu loyalists were arrested and charged with over 40 counts ranging from terrorism, treason, attempted murder, murder, kidnap, kidnap with intent to murder, malicious damage, and aggravated robbery, among others. Last year, 132 suspects from the same arrest were granted bail after a security assessment revealed that they did not present a threat or risk to the witnesses and case if released.  According to the ruling, these have been appearing before court whenever called upon.

Last month of November, another 49 suspects applied for bail through the Court sitting in Jinja City to on grounds of illness and psychological disorders such as stress resulting from long stay in prison while on remand and not knowing their fate.

In a ruling read Monday by the Court Registrar Beatrice Atingu, the Judge Alice Komuhangi Khaukha granted bail to Eriya Kule Sibendire alias Muleju, 74 years, Daudi Bahangondi, 70 and Bwambale Bahingana, 66 years on account of advanced age. The Court of Judicature bail guidelines of 2022 provide for the exceptional circumstances under which bail can be granted to suspects on capital offenses and other grave offenses. One of the circumstances is advanced age, which is interpreted to be 60 years and above.

Others suspects granted bail are Julius Masereka Regyeya 58, Yowas Rubasesera 57 and Joram Thaghembwa 56. Although these have not attained the prescribed advanced age, the judge noted in her ruling that the trio looked old and hence gave them the bail. 

All the six suspects were each granted a non-cash bail of 10 million shillings and each of their sureties asked to execute a non cash bond of 10 million shillings. Kule, Bahingana and Rubasesera were ordered to report to the Deputy Registrar of Fort-portal every last Friday of the month starting 27th January 2023 while Bahangondi, Masereka and Thaghembwa were ordered to report before the Chief Magistrate of Kasese Magisterial area every last Friday of the  month starting 27th January 2023 until the end of their trial. The six are also required, on the first visit, to present a copy of their National Identify Card and a letter from the LC 1 to prove their residence.   

The Judge however denied bail to the rest of the suspects saying that there was no satisfactory proof of exceptional circumstances to warrant giving them bail. They were not of advanced age, not infants and their illnesses could be treated without necessarily granting them bail. In her ruling, the Judge noted that whereas the court can exercise its discretion and grant bail without proof of exceptional circumstances she would be inclined to require exceptional circumstances before granting bail to the applicants in this case considering the gravity of the offenses. The cases for which the suspects are charged would attract a maximum death penalty in the event of conviction. 

“Having considered the overall circumstances of this case and in light of the reasons given in this ruling, I am not fully satisfied that exercising the discretion of this court in favor of the rest of the application by releasing them on bail will serve the greater interest of justice and greater good of the Society, so the application for the rest of the applicants is therefore hereby dismissed” she ruled.

The Judge however recognized the concern that the Suspects have stayed on remand for a long time and that they have reported illnesses. She hence set a dead for the commencement and conduct of the pre-trial hearing of the case for end of March. 

She directed the Deputy Registrar of the International Crimes Division of the High Court, the Prosecution and the defense to make all the necessary preparations to ensure the deadline is achieved.

David Bwambale Kongole, one of the counsel of the Rwenzururu applicants says it’s unfortunate that most of their clients have not been granted bail. He said they shall review the ruling and decide on their course of action. He says some of their clients are really such and have stayed long in prison. 

The suspects are expected to return to Court on the 14th February 2023. 

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