The National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED) has petitioned the Court Martial to grant automatic bail to 31 National Unity Platform (NUP) supporters who have been under detention for close to two years.
The suspects were arrested in 2021 in Kalangala district while on the campaign trail of then presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine. They face charges of being in unlawful possession of ammunition, contrary to Section 3 (1) and (2) of the Firearms Act.
Speaking during a news conference in Kampala, the president of NEED Joseph Kabuleta asked the High Court to order for unconditional release of all these suspects who are being tried before the Makindye General Court Martial.
“What wrong have these people (detainees) done in supporting a legitimate opposition party not a guerilla movement but a legitimate party. There are laws that government this country. If we are a lawless state, let that be made known,” he stated.
He argued that the NUP supporters deserve automatic bail because their case had not been heard for over 90 days.
“They were arrested in May 2021 and now we are in 2023. Those detention centres are like hell. Those NUP supporters are there in hell for doing nothing and even if they did something wrong, why can you bring them to court and charge them?” he queried.
NEED secretary general Asuman Odaka said the continued detention of the suspects was against the army court’s own operative law, adding that they have already served the Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka.
The court martial governed under the UPDF Act section 192 states that anybody charged and spends 60 – 90 days and that person hasn’t been convicted he/she is supposed to be released by the commanding officer.
Odaka explained that the move is one of their advocacies, adding that there are many Muslims who are detained illegally in some of these detention facilities and need to be released.
“You can hold the supporters of (any political party) but they are Ugandans who should benefit from the available laws. We want to implore Ugandans that on January 27 come to court because the case is for all Ugandans,” he said.
The Kampala High Court is expected to commence the hearing of the case Friday, January 27, 2023.
In October 2022, the General Court Martial chaired by Brig Gen Freeman Mugabe declined to grant the accused people bail, pending the hearing of their case, reasoning that the sureties were not substantial, applicants did not prove that they have fixed places of aboard and the offences against them are serious in nature.
Some of the grounds that the suspects had raised through their lawyer, George Musisi, for consideration for their release include having a constitutional right to apply for bail, being ready to abide by the release terms, the offence being bailable and having substantial sureties.
They had also promised not to interfere with the state investigations and witnesses, if any, and that they have permanent places of abode within the jurisdiction of the court.
However, prosecution led by Lt Gift Mubehamwe asked court to dismiss the bail application on grounds that the sureties presented were not substantial as they could not ably identify themselves.
Prosecution alleges that between November 2020 and May 12, 2021, in diverse areas of Jinja, Mbale, Kireka, Nakulabye, Kawempe, Nateete and Kampala Central, the accused were in possession of 13 pieces of explosive devices, a monopoly of the defence forces.