Ssegirinya, Ssewanyana Pretrial on Terrorism Awaits Constitutional Court Decision

The International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala has halted the trial of Makindye West Member of Parliament, Allan Ssewanyana, and his Kawempe North counterpart Ssegirinya pending a decision from the Constitutional Court, which is reviewing the legality of the trial.

The two legislators are charged with terrorism, murder, and attempted alongside Jackson Kanyike, John Mugerwa, Bull Wamala, and Mike Sserwadda.

The charges are related to the wave of machete killings that occurred in the greater Masaka district two years ago, resulting in the death of more than 20 people and the injury of scores of others. While the group faced these charges in the International Crimes Division of the High Court, the MPs were slapped with additional murder charges, which saw the prosecution split their files. One of the files was committed for trial before the Masaka High Court.

The accused appeared before Judge Alice Komuhangi Khaukha on Monday for a pre-trial hearing. However, Ssegirinya was absent, with his lawyer Musa Matovu explaining that he was in Kenya and was planning to seek specialized treatment in Germany.

Matovu provided evidence, including a court order from the Masaka High Court granting permission for Ssegirinya’s travel and a copy of his visa.

The Prosecution, led by State Attorney Joseph Kyomuhendo, informed the Court that the pretrial hearing couldn’t proceed because Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana had filed a petition in the constitutional court challenging the dismissal of their application to consolidate the two case files, one in Masaka and the other before the ICD Court.

Additionally, the MPs filed an application seeking a stay of proceedings until the constitutional petition is resolved.

Kyomuhendo emphasized the significance of this application, leading to the request for an adjournment until August 28th, 2023. Lawyers Geoffrey Turyamusiima and Nicholas Ssenkumi, representing the other accused persons, did not object to the adjournment.

In February 2023, Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana petitioned the Constitutional Court, arguing that their separate trials in different courts amounted to an abuse of the court process and political persecution.

They also filed an application in the International Crimes Division seeking to halt their trial until the Constitutional petition is resolved. The legislators claimed that their application to consolidate the cases was dismissed, and no progress was made by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to commence the trial. They also expressed concern over the DPP’s actions, stating they were inconsistent and in contravention of the Constitution, which led them to file a constitutional petition.

The legislators hope to halt the case during its preliminary stages, fearing potential injustices before their constitutional petition is determined. The Prosecution informed the Court that these matters need to be resolved before proceeding further with the case. MP Ssewanyana, who is also unwell, expressed his wishes for a quick recovery for Ssegirinya, emphasizing the need for them to prove their innocence.

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