The Anti-Corruption High Court Judge Lawrence Gidudu has given the Directorate of Public Prosecutions seven days ultimatum to commit human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo trial or have the case against him dismissed.
Opiyo, the head of Chapter Four Uganda, a civil rights organisation, was arbitrarily arrested by plain-clothed men in December last year. He was not immediately informed of the reason for his arrest.
He was later produced in court and charged under Section 3 (C) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act on allegations that he acquired US$ 340,000 through the bank account of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing that the said funds were “proceeds of crime.”
On Dec. 30, the Anti-Corruption Court granted bail to Opiyo. Justice Kajuga ordered Opiyo to pay Shs 15 million.
Without the trial kicking off, Opiyo recently filed his application in the High Court asking charges to be dismissed on grounds that it appeared police was not demonstrating progress in concluding investigations which in his view is unjust and unfair.
It is against this background that the judge said that the charges against Opiyo will be dismissed if the trial does not commence within seven days.
“The applicant is an accused in criminal case number 106 of 2020 wherein he is charged with offences of money laundering. He appeared in court for plea in December 2020. He has since been on bail. He brings this application seeking dismissal of the case for want of prosecution and return of his property that was confiscated upon arrest,” court said.
Court explained that the major ground is that the DPP has failed to commence the prosecution of the applicant therefore causing a delay in the trail.
“The applicant contend that this delay has infringed on his rights to a fair and speedy trial provided in the article 28(1) of the Constitution. This is said to have put him in great expense and affected his reputation and image as human rights lawyer.”
Recently the government indefinitely suspended Opiyo’s Chapter Four Uganda together with 53 other Non-Governmental Organisations for alleged failure to comply with legislation governing their operations