Court of Appeal lacks jurisdiction to hear Ssegirinya, Ssewanyana’s bail petition – judges

The Kampala Court of Appeal this morning refused to release Kawempe North MP Muhammad Ssegirinya and his Makindye West counterpart Allan Ssewanyana on bail.

A panel of three judges; Cheborion Barishaki, Christopher Izama Madrama and Eva Luswata argued that the Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction to hear the two MPs’ motion challenging the High Court judge’s decision in which he denied them bail .

Lawmakers who have been in pretrial detention for nearly a year after they were arrested last year for allegedly being behind the series of killings in Grand Masaka that left more than 20 people dead, had asked the court appeal to be released on bail as they continue to fight the murder. , attempted murder and complicity in terrorism.

Sewanyana and Segirinya were first arrested on September 7, 2021 alongside seven others for said murders. They were released on bail after spending two weeks in pre-trial detention. However, the two lawmakers were violently arrested upon their release from prison on September 23 and 26 respectively before new murder charges were brought against them.

They applied for bail but on October 25, 2021, Masaka High Court Judge Lawrence Tweyanze denied it on the grounds that they are charged with a series of capital offenses which all carry a maximum of the death penalty. The judge further held that the deputies could flee justice and that, given their position in society as legislators, they would interfere with the trial process and investigations.

Dissatisfied with Tweyanze’s ruling, lawmakers from the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) appealed to the Court of Appeal with seven grounds.

Through their lawyers led by Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, Erias Lukwago and Shamim Malende, the MPs told the Court that bail is a constitutional right and that they were kidnapped by unknown persons to be thrown in jail from Kigo.

According to their lawyers, if the High Court judge had considered this and the fact that bail had been granted before the re-arrest, he should have ordered their release so that they could obtain temporary freedom.

But state prosecutors led by Richard Birivumbuka and Joseph Kyomuhendo raised a preliminary legal issue when the case went to trial last week, asking the court to deny them bail on the grounds that an accused can only appeal an acquittal or conviction once a decision has been made. given by the court of first instance.

The court heard that since Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana were still on trial and had not been acquitted or convicted, they should not have appealed to the court of appeal.

In their ruling on Wednesday, the Court of Appeals judges agreed with state attorneys’ reasoning that they lacked jurisdiction to give lawmakers a hearing.

According to the judges, they can only hear the appeal and invoke their judicial powers on matters where there is a final order or decree from the High Court in the form of acquittal, dismissal of charges or conviction and conviction.

In the case of the deputies, the judges indicated that Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana did not experience this and therefore there is no way for them to receive their request if they must follow the laws governing the Court of Appeal. .

The judges noted, however, that if the deputies’ candidacy was incompetent, they feared that they would be in pre-trial detention for nine months without having been tried.

As a result, they ordered the Clerk of the Court of Appeal to prepare all the briefs and forward them to the senior judge who should ensure that the case against the legislators is heard quickly and that their human rights are respected.

Reacting to the ruling, the MPs’ lawyers, Samuel Muyizzi and Shamim Malende, told reporters outside the court that it set a bad precedent and that they would take the case to the Constitutional Court.

Thelma J. Longworth