Kampala, Uganda | URN | Nicholas Opiyo, a renowned human rights lawyer has been granted a Shs15 million cash bail after more than a week in custody.
Opiyo, the Executive Director of Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights organization was arrested last week, Tuesday with two others from a restaurant in Kampala, on allegations of laundering. The arrest was in relation to a sum of USD 340,000 (1.2 billion Shillings) which was channelled through an account in ABSA Bank.
The prosecution alleged that Opiyo acquired USD 340,000 in the name of Chapter Four Uganda well on October 8, at a branch of Absa Bank in Kampala, well knowing that the funds were proceeds of crime.
Today, his lawyers David Mpanga, Elly Karuhanga, Robert Mackay and Phiona Wall Nabaasa, the President of the Uganda Law Society represented him at the High Court in Kampala, presided over by Justice Jane Kajuga Okuo, while he was connected through video link from Kitalya Prison.
The lawyers stated that Opiyo is a law-abiding citizen, a human rights defender with a fixed place of abode and that he had presented substantial sureties.
The sureties included Francis Gimara, the former Uganda Law Society (ULS) President, Sylvia Namubiru, the Executive Director of Legal Aid Services Providers Network (LASPNET), Diana Kibuuka, an Advocate with Business Network International and Isabella Akiteng, the Executive Director Femme Forte Uganda.
But State Attorney Moses Sunday Baine told the court that some exhibits in the case were still at Chapter Four office headquarters in Kololo and had to be collected in the course of the investigation. He added that granting Opiyo bail was likely to compromise the ongoing investigations.
However, Justice Kajuga downplayed objections by the state and approved a cash bail of 15 million Shillings for Nicholas Opiyo while the sureties were bonded at a non-cash fee of 100 million Shillings.
“However serious a charge is, it all but remains an allegation. Courts are expected not to deny bail as a punishment,” ruled Lady Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga.
David Mpanga, the lead defence lawyer pleaded with the court to commit the state to present the accused’s passport to the court, since police have it. The terms of his bail include that he has to report twice a month to the anti-corruption court.
Nicholas Opiyo has been on remand since December 23, 2020. He was first arraigned before Nakawa Chief Magistrate on December 23, 2020, who remanded him to Kitalya prison, but advised the case file to be transferred to the Anti-Corruption Division court.
Opiyo was arraigned in court on December 28, 2020 before Anti-Corruption Division grade one Magistrate Moses Nabende, who further remanded him to Kitalya prison until January 11, 2021, and advised him to apply for bail in a High Court.