The four men who were recently arrested for killing six lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Southeastern Uganda have backtracked to change their plea.
Four suspects including Ampurira Brian 26, Tumuhire Vincent, 49, Aliyo Robert 40 years and Miliango David 68 were last month arraigned before the Utility Court in Kampala where they pleaded guilty to the charges of killing the lions and were remanded to Kitalya government prison.
However, on Wednesday, when the quartet appeared before court via zoom, they changed their plea saying they had been tortured to admit the same.
“We had been beaten by the time we appeared in court and we decided to confess to killing the lions. We now deny the charges,” Vincent Tumuhire said and was joined by his co-accused.
They asked court for hearing of the case to commence so they can defend themselves in the matter.
In response, the Chief State Attorney, Joan Keko said whereas investigations into the matter were ready, he was not ready for hearing.
The quartet has been further remanded to April,28,2021.
The group is accused of entering a wildlife protected area without permission contrary to section 30(1) and 70(a) of the Wildlife Act 2019.
They are also accused of hunting wild animals in a wildlife conservation area without permission ,killing protected wildlife species in a wildlife conservation area without permission and unlawful possession of protected wildlife species , contrary to sections 29(a) ,70(a), 36(1) and 71(1) of the Uganda Wildlife Act 2019.
Section 30(1) of the Wildlife Act 2019 says that a person who, except in accordance with this Act, attempts to enter into, enters into, resides in, or attempts to reside in a wildlife protected area without permission by the Authority, commits an offence.
According to the law, any person convicted is liable to maximum fine of Shs20 billion or life imprisonment, or both for an offence related to a wildlife species classified as extinct in the wild or critically endangered.
The species classified as extinct in the wild include the roan antelope, lion, hunting dog, spotted and stripped hyena, greater and lesser kudu, Ssese Island Sitatunga, Cheetah, African elephant, Delany’s mouse, and endangered species such as impala, Rwenzori duiker, Rothschild’s giraffe, mountain gorilla and the common chimpanzee.
The law also emphasizes that person who without a permit takes, hunts, molests or reduces into possession protected specimen or is found with, sells, buys, transfers or accepts transfer of protected specimen, commits an offence and shall on conviction, be liable to a maximum fine of Shs200 million or to a jail term or both.
The law also stipulates that a first-time offender should be fined to a tune Shs7 million or to a term of imprisonment, not exceeding 10 years, or both.