The Registrar International Crimes Division of the High Court has been directed to immediately transfer the file in which Kawempe North Member of Parliament Muhammad Ssegirinya and his Makindye West Counterpart Allan Ssewanyana are seeking to be granted bail on murder charges.
This was the decision made on Monday by the International Crimes Division Judge Alice Komuhangi Khauka after allowing a request made by the jailed MPs’ lawyers led by Samuel Muyizzi Mulindwa to have the file transferred.
Muyizzi told the Court that he had talked to his clients and other defense lawyers in this case and agreed that in the interest of justice, the bail application should be transferred and heard before the High Court in Masaka.
According to Muyizzi, their decision to seek transfer of the file was based on a ruling delivered last week in which the International Crimes Division dismissed an application seeking to consolidate two files in the case which would also bring the Masaka file to Kampala for an expeditious hearing.
But in response , the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Lino Anguzu argued that the right procedure is to dismiss the application and he added that as the State, they were not going to ask for costs.
As a result, the Judge in her ruling noted that whereas the High Court has original jurisdiction to entertain several matters, the International Crimes Division Court is unable to hear this application for bail and she thus ordered for the transfer of the file that it is presented before the Judge who is handling the murder case.
The background to this case is that on September 7th, 2021, Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana were arraigned before the Masaka Chief Magistrate Charles Yeteise (now retired) together with five others who read them three murder and attempted murder charges allegedly committed on August 23 2021 at Ssetaala and Ssenya villages in Kimanya-Kabonera division, Masaka City.
The legislators were jointly charged with Jackson Kanyike, John Mugerwa, Bull Wamala, Mike Sserwadda, and Jude Muwonge.
The group was later on September 15th, 2021 slapped with additional charges of terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism thereby making it one file stemming from Masaka Police. The legislators applied for bail on this file and it was subsequently granted by Lady Justice Victoria Nakintu Katamba with orders that each pays a 20 million shillings cash.
She also directed them to deposit their passports with the court. However, the legislators were re-arrested in the precincts of Kigo prison on separate occasions shortly after fulfilling the conditions levied on them by Lady Justice Katamba.
Subsequently, on September 29th, 2021, the state slapped the MPs together with one Tonny Ssenyonga with another charge for the murder of Joseph Bwanika, a resident of Kisekka B Village, Kankamba Parish, Kisekka Sub County in Lwengo, and arraigned them before Masaka Grade One Magistrate, Grace Wakooli.
The MPs made a second attempt to secure bail on the fresh charge but in vain after it was dismissed by Justice Lawrence Tweyanze that they would interfere with the ongoing investigations.
However, this file stemming from Lwengo district was separated from the one of Masaka district. As a result, whereas the Masaka file containing terrorism charges was committed to the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala for trial, the Lwengo file was committed to the Masaka High Court also for trial that side.
The defense lawyers filed an application for bail in the International Crimes Division in Kampala seeking the release of their clients on the Lwengo murder file which is in Masaka court. They also filed an application seeking to consolidate all the two criminal files to have an expeditious hearing of the case and to avoid abuse of Court process.
The lawyers had hopes that since they are all in High Courts and have unlimited jurisdiction, their bail is most likely to be entertained in the ICD Kampala.
But, their hopes were dashed last week when the International Crimes Division ruled that it couldn’t do consolidation of the files since it was alien in criminal procedure matters and the rules of this country. The Consolidation was also rejected on the basis that an ICD Court couldn’t order a Judge of the Masaka High Court to bring the file to her since they are both at the same level.
It’s against this background that the defense lawyers today have asked for the transfer of the bail application given the reasons that the Judge had based on to reject the consolidation application.
Meanwhile the same Judge Komuhangi is yet to decide on an application seeking to protect identities of 17 witnesses the Prosecutors intend to rely on to Prosecute the accused persons.
The ICD main case will now return on October 10th 2022 for further pre-trial hearing.