Jailed Mabirizi continues fight for release of MPs Ssegirinya, Ssewanyana
Mabirizi made the request yesterday Monday while appearing before the Constitutional court registrar, Henry Twinomuhwezi for the pretrial hearing of his suit in which, he sued the attorney general for slapping additional charges against the legislators moments after being released on bail for murder.
Police arrested the two legislators on September 7, 2021, in Masaka district shortly after securing bail from the Chief Magistrate’s court. They were slapped with additional charges of terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism, murder, and attempted murder, and remanded to Kigo prisons.
The charges stem from their alleged involvement in the Greater Masaka Region machete killings, which claimed the lives of more than 20 people between July and September 2021. On September 21, 2021, court granted the duo bail of Shs 20 million before the state slapped them with an additional charge of murdering Joseph Bwanika eight days later.
As a result, Mabirizi petitioned the Constitutional court in the same month, arguing that the additional charges brought on a different criminal file amount to political persecution, which is unjustifiable in a free and democratic society and therefore unconstitutional.
He said that the additional charges deprived Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya of Shs 20 million, which should not have been the case had the state presented an amended charge sheet.
Mabirizi noted that the state actions made it hard for the legislators to get effective representation from a lawyer of their choice at their own expense and it required them to make new bail applications on offences alleged to have been committed within the same period and area.
He asked the Constitutional court to quash the duo’s trial and order their immediate and unconditional release and award them general and exemplary damages for the disturbances arising from the said state actions.
When the matter came up on Monday for conferencing, Mabirizi asked the registrar to issue a production warrant to enable Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya to attend proceedings since the petition concerns them despite the fact that they are not parties to the suit.
State attorney Lydia Mugisha objected to the issuance of the production warrant on grounds that Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya are not parties to the case and that the petition raises constitutional questions, which the justices will look into.
In his response, Twinomuhwezi said he would ask the head of the panel of the Constitutional court justices, lady justice Catherine Bamugemereire for guidance on the matter. By the time of filing his petition, Mabirizi was a freeman until February 15, 2022 when he was found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 18 months in jail.
The court has set June 16 as the date to hear the application. The panel of the Constitutional court comprises justices Catherine Bamugemeire, Stephen Musota, Irene Mulyagonja, Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, and Monica Mugenyi.
On the same day, the justices will also hear a petition in which, Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake is challenging his removal from the position of commissioner of parliament for allegedly using his social media platform to insult the speaker of parliament Anita Among.
In his petition, Zaake contends that parliament illegally impeached him on March 10, 2022, without following the required rules of procedure.