Kampala, Uganda | URN | High Court Judge Michael Elubu has revised downwards the Shs 30 million cash bail fees slapped against the former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party president, Dr Kizza Besigye to Shs 3 million.
He delivered the verdict Monday 6, June 2022 following an application by Dr. Besigye challenging the exorbitant slapped on him by Buganda Road grade one magistrate, Siena Owomugisha.
Dr. Besigye ran to the High Court after Owomugisha ordered him to pay Shs 30 million cash to secure his bail after being charged with inciting violence. His sureties including the former leader of opposition in parliament Wafula Ogutu and FDC deputy secretary-general Harold Kaija who executed a non-cash bond of Shs 70 million each.
This came after the four-time presidential candidate was arraigned in court in connection to his planned protest to mobilize Ugandans to rise up against the high commodity prices. Dr. Besigye declined to pay the bail money, which he described as excessive, and instead opted to go to Luzira prisons. He instructed his lawyers Erias Lukwago and Chrysostom Katumba to challenge the decision in the High court.
In the application, the lawyers noted that by asking Dr. Besigye to pay bail of Shs 30 million in cash, Owomugisha had exercised her jurisdiction with material irregularity. They also argued that the stringent bail terms had derogated Besigye’s right to a fair hearing and civil liberties.
They told the High Court that Dr. Besigye was dragged before the Magistrate’s Court alongside Samuel Lubega Mukaaku, Yoweri Kintu, and Fred Kato, who were charged before different magistrates and given a non-cash bond of Shs 1 million each yet the charges against them arose from a similar act.
He also explained that the offence of inciting violence which Dr. Besigye was charged with attracts a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment, arguing that if the court was to ask him to pay a fine upon conviction, it would be around Shs 1.2 million. Elubu reasoned that the bail conditions shouldn’t be so high but instead reasonable to compel someone not to abscond from the trial.
They asked the High Court to set aside the magistrate’s decision and release their client on reasonable terms and conditions. On Monday morning, Justice Elubu concurred with Dr. Besigye’s legal team, saying that the monies were harsh and excessive adding that such conditions make bail look like a punishment yet its purpose is to compel the accused to attend court for trial.
He, therefore, quashed the decision and ordered Besigye to pay Shs 3 million. Deputy High Court registrar, Festo Nsenga read Justice Elubu’s verdict in open court in the presence of Dr. Besigye and dozens of top FDC officials. Dr. Besigye appeared excited about the decision.
Details of the case
The prosecution alleges that on May 24, 2022, at Arua Park in Shauriyako parish in Kampala city, Besigye without lawful excuse made statements indicating that he desired to demonstrate, which could cause damage to property.
The protests by Besigye came almost two weeks after police barred him from leaving his home in Kasangati to mobilize Uganda to protest against the runaway commodity prices.
The increase in prices, which started almost in late November 2021 has seen fuel prices increase by over Shs 2,000.