MUSLIM CLERICS’ MURDERS: Why Court Dismissed DPP’s Appeal Against Acquittal Of 14 Suspects

MUSLIM CLERICS’ MURDERS: Why Court Dismissed DPP’s Appeal Against Acquittal Of 14 Suspects

Uganda’s court of appeal has dismissed an application by the country’s Directorate of Public Prosecution-DPP challenging the acquittal of 14 people for murdering Muslim leaders on grounds that it was filed late.

The appeal was thrown out by a three member panel of the Court of Appeal Judges led by the Deputy Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny Dollo. The other members are Elizabeth Musoke and Cheborion Barishaki.

The DPP ran to the appellant court on August 19th, 2019 after the International Crimes Division – ICD acquitted Muslim clerics for the murder of Hassan Kirya, the former Spokesperson Kibuli Muslim faction, Dr. Abdul Qadir Muwaya, the former top Shia cleric in Uganda and Mustafa Bahiga, the former Kampala District Amir under Jamaat Dawah Salafiyah Muslim sect.

The trio was gunned down in Kampala, Wakiso and Mayuge districts by assailants riding on motorcycles. The suspects included Sheikh Yunus Kamoga, the head of Jamaat Dawah Salafiya, Sheikh Siraj Kawooya, Sheikh Murta Mudde Bukenya, Sheikh Fahad Kalungi, Kakande Yusufu alias Abdallah and Sekayaja Abdulsalam alias Kassim Mulumba.

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Others are Amir Kinene, his brother Hakeem Kinene, Abdul Rashid Sematimba, Hamza Kasirye, Twaha Sekitto, Rashid Jingo, Musa Isa Mubiru and Yiga George William. The group had earlier on appeared before the International Crimes Division – ICD on charges of murder and terrorism.

However, they were acquitted of murder in 2017 by a panel of three justices comprising Ezekiel Muhanguzi, Jane Kiggundu and Percy Tuhaise.  The same court convicted six of the suspects for terrorism and handed them sentences ranging from life in prison and 30 years in jail.

However, the DPP ran to the appellant court to challenge their acquittal arguing that the lower court erred in law and fact when it failed to evaluate the evidence on record, which led to the acquittal of the accused persons.

This morning, the appellant court dismissed the appeal on grounds that it filed out of time. The rules of procedure require one to file an appeal within fourteen days after receiving the judgment records.  However, prosecution filed the appeal on August 19th, 2019, a year after receiving the judgment records.

Despite filing the appeal out of time, the Senior State Attorney, Lillian Omar Alum wasn’t ready to proceed with the hearing.  She asked for more time to present her case. However, the defense lawyers led by MacDusman Kabega and Fred Muwema asked court to dismiss the appeal.

In their ruling, the judges noted that there was an explicable delay of one year and dismissed the appeal, saying court shouldn’t be used as an accomplice to delay justice.  Prior to the dismissal of the appeal, the same court released Amir Kinene who had been locked up in Luzira Upper Prison illegally following his acquittal in 2017.

His release followed submissions by Moses Ssentaro, the Officer in Charge of Luzira Upper Prison who said that Kinene appeared on two court files while on remand, which were consolidated during trial.  He explained that Luzira was never given remand papers to that effect.

According to Ssentaro, when Kinene was acquitted terrorism and murder, there was miscommunication that he was still needed by Nakawa High Court on charges of aiding and abetting terrorism.  The Senior State Attorney, Lillian Omar Alum also clarified that after consolidating Kinene’s file, the charges of aiding and abetting terrorism were dropped during trial for lack of evidence.

She explained that Kinene was acquitted of all the charges by the end of trial, which made his continued detention in Luzira prisons illegal and regretted the incident. The Deputy Chief Justice, Owiny- Dollo ordered Kinene’s release, saying he was in court illegally.

He directed Prison authorities to work the Office of the DPP to release the affected person if such cases are discovered. Kinene’s relatives welcomed his release.

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