Ssegirinya, Ssewanyana Co-accused Denied Bail For 3rd Time

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The International Crimes Division of the High Court has for the third time dismissed the bail application of John Mugera. Mugera jointly charged together with Allan Ssewanyana, the Makindwe West Legislator, and Kawempe North counterpart, Muhammad Ssegirinya on terrorism charges.

He for the third time appeared before Lady Justice Alice Komuhangi Khaukha on Monday who dismissed his application on the grounds of lack of substantial sureties. Mugera, Ssewanyana, Ssegirinya together with Jackson Kanyike, Bull Wamala, and Mike Sserwadda are currently undergoing a pretrial hearing on the same charges.

The group is indicted on charges of murder, terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism stemming from 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. Although the MPs were granted bail, the rest are still on remand.

Mugera applied for bail two weeks ago whose decision was made on Monday afternoon. He had asked the court to release him on the grounds that he has been on remand since September 2021 and the trial has not started. Through his lawyer Nicholas Ssenkumi, Mugera said whereas he was committed for trial, the pretrial process alone started in July 2022 and has never been completed, which is a violation of his right to a fair hearing and speedy trial.

He noted that during the pretrial process, Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana filed an application seeking to stay the hearing of the case in the Constitutional Court and therefore the trial is a long way to go. Ssenkumi added that Mugera is sickly suffering from hypertension, palpitations, and chest pains and his continued remand in prison is exacerbating his worsening health.

He presented his wife Annet Ssanyu, Brother Deo Kisaasa, and Cousin Sister Mary Birungi Namaga as his sureties and asked the Court to find them substantial. However, in response, the Prosecution led by State Attorney Richard Birivumbuka asked the Court to dismiss the application on the grounds that Mugera had no fixed place of abode within the jurisdiction of the court and not anywhere in the country.

Birivumbuka added that the Prosecution has two burdens now including, tracing the sureties and the accused persons because they equally don’t have permanent places of residence yet the office of the DPP doesn’t have the funds to go hunting for missing accused persons as well as their sureties. He asked the Court to deny Mugera bail saying that the sureties had not demonstrated the financial capacity to be able to pay monies that would be asked by the court in the event that he absconds from trial.

According to Birivumbuka, the sureties were not substantial and also they looked not serious because of not answering properly the questions asked by the Judge regarding the roles of the sureties. He said that even the businesses one of the sureties of trading charcoal are not a credible source of income adding that it was banned by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

In her ruling, Lady Justice Komuhangi concurred with the Prosecution that the sureties were not substantial and dismissed the bail application for the third time. Mugera was first denied bail by Lady Justice Elizabeth Jane Alividza in 2022 on grounds that his sureties didn’t have a credible source of income and therefore they didn’t have a strong financial status to be found substantial.

He made a second bail application which was equally dismissed in March 2023 by Justice Komuhangi for failure to present substantial sureties. Now the third application has also collapsed today because the sureties he presented have not been found substantial by the Judge.

“For instance, the 2nd surety stated that he sells motorcycles which he buys from other people. I find that this is a very unstable and unpredictable source of income. As for the third surety, she stated that she sells charcoal from her home which business I presume is on a very small scale since no contrary evidence was adduced to the Court,” said the Judge.

In a ruling delivered by the Judge’s Research Assistant Grade One Magistrate Millicent Kemigisha, she has added that these therefore do not possess the required capacity to hind themselves to a substantial amount of money befitting cases of this nature before Mugera can be released on bail.

“It is very unlikely that they would be able to raise that kind of money in case the applicant absconds from bail. I find it extremely risky to release the applicant with the above sureties,” added Komuhangi. The Judge has said that whereas previously indicated that blood relatives would be substantial sureties, after a careful assessment she has found that they don’t have the capacity to compel Mugera to return to court because they do not have a bigger influence over him.

According to Komuhangi,  besides this, Mugera faces serious charges of terrorism that attract a maximum sentence of death upon conviction, and therefore releasing him with the sureties he presented would be unsafe to trace him in case he absconds from trial.

Meanwhile, the same Judge has adjourned the main case to September 25th, 2023 for a ruling on whether to stay the trial against the accused person pending disposal of the Constitutional Petition challenging their trial both before  Masaka High Court and International Crimes Division of the High Court and protection of witnesses set to testify against them.

Through their lawyers, the MPs petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking an interpretation of the ruling made last year by the trial Judge Komuhangi in which she refused to consolidate their two criminal case files. The two are also challenging the Judge’s decision to allow some of the witnesses to testify against them which they are covered.

To them, the decision of the trial Judge violates their constitutional right to a fair trial. Before the ruling, Samuel Muyizzi Mulindwa who is representing the legislators told Court the Ssegirinya is still undergoing treatment in Amsterdam.  Speaking after the Court Ssewanyana, commended those who have extended financial support to Ssegirinya who is in Europe for specialized treatment.

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