DPP withdraws charges against human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo

Why Uganda has suspended CCEDU, Chapter Four and 52 other NGOs
Chapter Four Uganda Executive Director Nicholas Opiyo confirmed his group had received the government's order to close and described the situation as "serious."

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has withdrawn money laundering charges against Chapter Four Uganda Executive Director Nicholas Opiyo.

Opiyo had been accused of fraudulently receiving a sum of USD 340,000 (1.2 billion Shillings) through the Chapter Four Uganda account in Absa Bank. The state said that the money was proceeds of crime. Before being arraigned in court, Opiyo had been arrested by security operatives from Kamowkya, in the outskirts of Kampala.

He was taken to the Special Investigations Department of Police together with four other lawyers/human rights defenders; Simon Peter Esomu, Anthony Odur, Dakasi Herbert and Hamidu Tenywa. Although the rest were released on police bond, Nicholas Opiyo was charged and remanded to Kitalya government prison.

The state then froze Chapter Four Uganda’s bank accounts on allegations of funding terror. The organisation was recently closed together with 53 other non-governmental organizations for alleged failure to comply with regulations governing their operations.

The Principal Magistrate of the Anti-Corruption Court Moses Nabende on Monday 13, September 2021 endorsed the withdrawal of the charges in the presence of Opiyo’s lawyer David Mpanga and State Attorney Harriet Ongom, based on a withdrawal letter dated September 10, 2021, signed by the DPP Jane Frances Abodo.

The decision comes barely a week after the Anti Corruption Court Judge Lawrence Gidudu gave the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) an ultimatum of seven days to commit Opiyo to the High Court for trial. He also ordered that failure to comply with his order would lead to the dismissal of the said charges.

Read Also: Why Uganda has suspended CCEDU, Chapter Four and 52 other NGOs

According to Gidudu, the prosecution had spent almost a year saying investigations were incomplete yet Opiyo had been violently arrested way back in December 2020. He noted that the delay has infringed on Opiyo’s right to a fair and speedy trial as provided for by the constitution and put him to a great expense and suffering of his reputation and image as a human rights lawyer.

He made the ruling based on an application by Opiyo’s lawyers led by David Mpanga, demanding the dismissal of charges on grounds that the police were not demonstrating progress in concluding investigations. He added that the charges were malicious, unjust and unfair.

Meanwhile, Nabende has directed that the 15 million Shillings Opiyo had paid on December 12, 2020, as bail money be refunded to him.