The High Court in Kampala has adjourned for two months the trial in which ten people are accused of murdering Susan Magara, a cashier at Bwendeiro Diary in February 2018.
It is alleged that the 10 suspects; Patrick Kasaija alias Agaba alias Pato, Abas Buvumbo, Yusuf Lubega, Hussein Wasswa, Muzamiru Ssali, Hassan Kato Miiro, Hajara Nakandi, Abubaker Kyewolwa, Mahad Kasalita, and Ismail Bukenya kidnapped Magara on February 7, 2018, with the intent of extorting a ransom.
Later on February 27, 2018, in Kigo, Wakiso district, they brutally murdered their victim. Last week, the suspects, except Kasaija, appeared before the criminal division judge Alex Mackay Ajiji for the hearing of the case but the matter could not go on.
Prosecution led by state attorney Irene Nakimbugwe informed court that they were not ready to proceed because the lawyers of the suspects were not present in court. She also said the prosecution has not given the defense lawyers the documents they intend to rely on to prosecute the suspects.
In response, justice Ajiji said that it is a complicated case that may require a special session and that above all, they need to address funding.
Ajiji said that court needs to allocate each of the accused persons a lawyer who will be paid by the government. She added that court may also need to hire five lawyers to ably defend the group and expeditiously dispose off the case.
However, according to the judge, this calls for time adding that they met with the permanent secretary in the judiciary over the matter and requested for funds whose amount he didn’t specify. He asked the suspects to remain calm and be patient. Ajiji also said that they may also need to increase the number of assessors to four. Two months ago, court appointed John Musana and Brenda Magomba as assessors.
The suspects also asked court to direct the prosecution to share with them the documents they intend to use to prosecute them because they previously asked for the same but were not successful. During the session, one of the suspects Hajara Nakandi complained to court about a one Robert from the prisons welfare department who normally gives her to speak to a man who claims to be the husband whereas not.
According to Nakandi, the man, Shakur Mugabi always asks her to accept the charges against her. She further asked court to direct the prison authorities to help her meet and talk with her co-accused persons saying she believes they have answers to some questions she is normally asked. Ajiji told Hajara that there are guidelines the prison normally follows and when someone is detained, they cannot have all the liberty to do everything.
Ajiji adjourned that hearing to October 16, 2023, with hopes that by that time, they will have got the funds. Evidence before court indicates that the group planned to target wealthy individuals and their family members and Magara, tragically, was the first victim of this scheme.
Evidence indicates that she was abducted in Lungujja while on her way home, and she was subsequently held captive for three weeks as the kidnappers negotiated a $1 million ransom with her family. After receiving $200,000 (about Shs 700 million) of the ransom money, the prosecution alleges that the kidnappers murdered Magara and disposed off her body in Kitiko.
Various exhibits, such as land titles and motor vehicles, which were allegedly purchased using ransom money, have since been recovered by the police. The investigation into this case has allegedly revealed that Magara overheard conversations between Hajara Nakandi’s visitors while being held captive.
The suspects became aware of this and held a meeting at Usafi Mosque to decide Magara’s fate. They feared that her release would lead to the identification and arrest of Nakandi and potentially expose the entire group who first chopped off some of Magara’s fingers.
A recorded video clip of her torture was saved on a memory card and her chopped-off fingers placed in a parcel and delivered near a certain fuel station for her relatives to watch prior to her death.
Consequently, they allegedly decided to suffocate Magara using a polythene bag to prevent her from revealing their identities. The prime suspect, Kasaija, was previously charged separately for the kidnap of Joan Cora Alupo after extradition from South Africa and granted bail in July 2019.
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