High Court drags feet as Gulu chief magistrate says MPs were charged wrongly in his court

Kenneth Kazibwe

Kenneth Kazibwe

, Featured

The Gulu High Court has refused to transfer  proceedings of the case in which several people including MPs are charged with treason for throwing stones at President Museveni’s convoy from the Gulu Chief Magistrates Court.

Following chaos in Arua last week, several people including MPs Kassiano Wadri, Gerard Karuhanga and Paul Mwiru among others were on Thursday arraigned before the Gulu Chief Magistrates Court and charged with treason contrary to section 23  of the  Penal Code Act and  later remanded.

However, the Chief Magistrate, Francis Matenga Dawa would later write to the area resident judge of the High Court saying the case was taken to his court in error.

“I have examined the particulars and find the same matter falls with  in the territorial jurisdiction of Arua chief magistrate’s court and Arua High Court circuit. The registration of the same and mention in Gulu in my opinion is an error,” says Matenga in his letter to the High Court in Gulu dated August 17.

“I therefore place the file before you for guidance and directives under sect 48 and 50 of the criminal procedure to examine record for appropriate orders.”

High Court drags feet

However, Justice Stephen Mubiru, the resident judge for the Gulu High Court circuit has in his ruling insisted that the case is before the right case in Gulu despite the crime having been committed in a different jurisdiction.

“I have addressed my mind to the law regarding personal and geographical jurisdiction of Magistrates’ Courts, the transfer of criminal cases, the powers and jurisdiction of the High Court and I find that although there are some procedural irregularities leading up to the Chief Magistrate’s courts at Gulu taking cognisance of the case, they are not fatal to the proceedings and can be rectified by an order of this court ratifying the exercise of jurisdiction,” reads in part Justice Mbiru’s ruling.

Quoting the arguments as presented by the Resident State Attorney for Arua, Patrick Omia on behalf of the prosecution, the Guu High Court judge says there is no problem in the matter being heard in Gulu instead of Arua from where the crime was committed and has the jurisdiction to try the case.

“The proceedings of the Chief Magistrate’s Court are accordingly ratified. The accused persons are to continue to appear before that court for the mention of their case in accordance with the law,” he adds.

He however says he would deliver a separate ruling explaining in detail the reasons behind this decision and the same is set to be delivered on Monday August 20.

The state alleges  that the thirty two accused including three MPs, and others still at large, on 13th August, 2018 at Arua Municipality and other places within Uganda, with intent to do harm to the person of the President of the Republic of Uganda, unlawfully aimed and threw stones thereby hitting and smashing the rear windscreen of the Presidential car.

The case(treason) being capital in nature and only tried by the High Court, the accused were not allowed to take plea and were remanded to Gulu government prison until August 30 when they will return for the mention of the case.

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