Seven Terror Suspects opt for Plea Bargaining

Seven out of the 12 suspects who were arrested for alleged terrorism shortly after the murder of former Buyende district police commander, Muhammad Kirumira have opted for plea bargaining.

They are; Jamil Muwonge, Ibrahim Kavuma, Uthman Mugoya, Luutu Kimuli, Juma Swabalu Sekiti, Daniel Kaaya, and Ismail Ssewanyana. The suspects, who are on remand in Luzira prisons are jointly charged with Sulaiman Ismael Ssebowa, Sulaiman Ssenfuka, Andrew Kaweesi, Ahamed Ssebuwufu, and Mariam Kasujja, who are out on bail.

On Wednesday, the suspects appeared before lady justice Susan Okalany in the international crimes division of the High court. The prosecution alleges that between 2015 and 2018, the accused, along with others still at large, in various areas including Kampala, Wakiso, Masaka, Rakai, Kyotera, Buikwe, and the Busoga region, were associated with or professed allegiance to the Allied Democratic Front (ADF), a rebel group led by Jamil Mukulu.

They are accused of aiding, abetting, financing, or harbouring acts of terrorism, knowingly supporting ADF with the belief that the assistance would be used for terrorist activities. The charges are serious, carrying a maximum penalty of the death sentence upon conviction. However, during their appearance, assistant director of public prosecutions Thomas Jatiko and the defense counsel Geoffrey Turyamusiima informed the court that some of the accused had initiated a plea bargaining process that is still ongoing.

Turyamusiima revealed that the seven detainees were seeking court permission to meet with the DPP’s office to finalize the plea bargaining process. Jatiko indicated that he had commitments in the Court of Appeal but agreed to interact with the accused in person. This prompted justice Okalany to adjourn the matter to September 13, 2023.

The hearing will address the charges against the remaining suspects and provide an update on the plea bargaining progress. The suspects, including 75-year-old Sekiti, who appeared unwell, were returned to prison. The group was arrested in October 2018 by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) following the murder of ASP Kirumira. Kirumira was gunned down by unidentified assailants riding motorcycles on September 8, 2018, in Bulenga, Wakiso district.

This led to the arrest of multiple suspects, including Mariam Kasujja, wife of Abdul Kateregga, who was shot dead in a suburb of Kampala. Before their transfer to the High court, the suspects had reported severe torture during their detention. It remains unclear whether their decision to opt for plea bargaining was influenced by their prolonged suffering in detention or potential involvement in the crimes.

In 2019, the suspects informed Nakawa Magistrate’s court that their health had deteriorated due to injuries sustained during their detention by CMI. They claimed to have been subjected to beatings, deprivation, and lack of proper facilities, leading to health complications. Plea bargaining involves a negotiated agreement between the prosecution and a defendant represented by legal counsel.

The defendant pleads guilty before a judicial officer to the charges against them in exchange for a reduced sentence, bypassing a full trial. This approach saves time and resources for all parties involved in the trial.

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