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100 Persons Languishing In Prisons As Luwero Court Fails to Secure Better Internet Connection

Samuel Munobe, the Luwero Chief Magistrate, says that some accused persons with minor cases have been granted bail and their cases are being heard because they can appear in court from home.
Ssekyondwa Jamir who was remanded for announcing Museveni's death. He has been on remand for 3 months after failing to apply for bail

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At least 100 people arrested for electoral violence and other crimes are languishing in prisons following the failure by Luwero Chief Magistrate Court to secure stable internet to handle their cases.

There are over 362 cases pending before Luwero Magistrate Court. These comprise 285 criminal offences and 77 capital offences. Some of the accused persons were arrested for defying Presidential directives aimed at containing the spread of COVID 19, election violence and general crimes. 

Samuel Munobe, the Luwero Chief Magistrate, says that some accused persons with minor cases have been granted bail and their cases are being heard because they can appear in court from home.

Munobe that there are over 100 accused persons on remand at Kitalya, Nakasongola, and Kigo prisons whose cases can’t be heard or apply for bail due to lack of strong internet connectivity at Luwero Magistrate’s Court. 

“We have an internet connection and we can link up with accused persons via zoom application but our internet bandwidth is weak to sustain a session for a long period,” Munobe said.

Munobe said that since Luwero High Court is expected to start operating soon, they are hopeful that the internet bandwidth will be enhanced to enable the accused persons to have an expeditious hearing.

One of those languishing at Kitalya prison is Jamir Ssekyondwa, a resident of Kabunyata trading center in Kamira sub-county. He was remanded on charges of offensive communication contrary to a section of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 when he announced the death of President Yoweri Museveni.

Ssekyondwa was supposed to appear before Luwero Chief Magistrate on September 8th, 2021 for his bail application hearing. However, the case couldn’t proceed because of the lack of internet connectivity. The matter was adjourned to November 3rd, 2021.

Erastus Kibirango, a lawyer and LC 5 Chairman of Luwero district, says that several accused persons have spent more than the mandatory remand period but can’t apply for bail because of the failure by Uganda Prisons to present them in Court due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kibirango says that only a handful of the accused can afford to hire lawyers to chase for bail or ask for a hearing through Buganda Road Court in Kampala city. He, however, says that for this to be possible the lawyer must liaise with the state prosecutor to travel to Buganda Road Court, which may not possible for everyone. 

Kibirango explains that although relatives of accused persons can apply for a production warrant without a lawyer, many are not aware of this provision. Denes Sekabira, the Katikamu North Member of Parliament, says this should clearly serve as an eye-opener to the people seeking the removal of bail.

Sekabira has also asked Court to exercise its power and release the accused persons if the state has failed to create a conducive environment for hearing their cases.

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Before the second lockdown was announced there was a case backlog of 491 cases. These included 193 land cases, 225 civil cases and 73 criminal cases.