Masaka High Court will now hear the bail applications for the Kawempe North Member of Parliament Muhammad Ssegirinya and his Makindye West Counterpart, Allan Ssewanyana. This stems from a directive by the International Crimes Division Judge Alice Komuhangi Khauka to the registrar to immediately transfer the legislator’s bail application file to Masaka High court.
She issued the directives following a successful application by the MP’s lawyers led by Samuel Muyizzi Mulindwa to transfer their bail application files. Muyizzi told the Court that he had talked to his clients and other defense lawyers involved in the legislator’s trial to transfer their bail application files to Masaka High court in the interest of justice.
He explained that their decision to apply for the transfer 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 lead to the transfer of the file in Masaka to Kampala for an expeditious hearing.
In his response, the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Lino Anguzu argued that the right procedure is to dismiss the application, saying that they wouldn’t press for costs as the state. However, in her ruling, Justice Alice Komuhangi Khauka noted that whereas the High Court has original jurisdiction to entertain several matters the International Crimes Division Court is unable to hear the bail application and ordered the transfer of the files to the Judge who is handling the murder case.
Background to this case
On September 7th, 2021, Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana were arraigned before the Masaka Chief Magistrate Charles Yeteise (now retired) together with five others on three counts of 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 they pay 20 million Shillings each. 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 bail conditions set 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 as Justice Lawrence Tweyanze dismissed their application on grounds that they would interfere with the ongoing investigations. However, this file stemming from Lwengo district was separated from one of Masaka districts.
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 for a separate trial.
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 the two criminal files to have an expeditious hearing of the cases and avoid abuse of the Court process.
The lawyers had hoped 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 the International Crimes Division ruled that it couldn’t consolidate the files since it was alien to criminal procedure matters and the rules of this country.
ICD also rejected the application on the grounds that it couldn’t order the Masaka High Court judge to bring the file since they are at the same level. It’s against this background that the defense lawyers on Monday asked for the transfer of the bail application. Meanwhile, Justice Komuhangi is yet to decide on an application seeking to protect the 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 a further pre-trial hearing.