Kampala, 15th/February/2012; Otim Patrick, a journalist with Mega FM in Gulu and 13 others treason suspects have lost an application to quash their trial on grounds that the government they purportedly planned to overthrow expired last year.
Justice David Wangutusi of the High Court ruled that as a general principal there was no limitation period within which a state can prosecute criminal proceeding given the fact that treason is committed to a state and not government.
“Just like a man who commits murder is not left scot free because his victim is no more… In treason cases, just because government has changed or has ceased to be in power, the crime does not die with it. So treason is committed to the state not government and the state is the one that prosecutes.” ruled Wangutusi.
The suspects’ defense lawyers Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, Yunus Kasirivu, Musa Ssembajja, Rashid Babu, Sauda Nsereko and Darlton Opwonya had raised a preliminary point of law when they submitted that the charges against the accused are not sustainable since the government they purportedly plotted to overthrow expired in 2011.
Justice Wangutusi said in his ruling that, “When one talks of treason, he/she is talking about offence against the state, therefore it’s not misnomer to refer to organs of government instead of organs of state.”
The accused are journalist Patrick Otim, Patrick Komaketch, Alex Okot Langwen, John Otim, Patrick Okello, Jimmy Oceng Opoka aka Billy, Francis Akena, Franki Abonga, Micheal Obol, Alfred Lubel Olanya, Lt. Emmy Oryem Mwaka and Sgt. Devolente Komakech. They are also charged with treason and concealment of treason in the alternative.
Patrick Otim was kidnapped in 2009 and detained incommunicado for more than a month and he was brought to court through the habeas corpus filled by Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda).
Prosecution alleges that the suspects committed the offence between 2006 and May 2009 in eight districts of Kampala, Masindi, Gulu, Pader, Kitgum, Nebbi, Apac and Amuru when they formed a rebel group called the Popular Patriotic Front (PPF) and recruited people to fight and overthrow President Yoweri Museveni’s government. It further alleges that they mobilized logistical support for the rebellion by obtaining satellite phones, Global Positioning System (GPS) machines, solar panels, black polythene sheets, gumboots, laptops, walkie talkies and firearms.
“We welcome the move by the court to expedite justice because the suspects have overstayed in prison. As a human rights body, HRNJ-Uganda does not condone any act violence.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda Program Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.
Hearing of the case has started at the High Court in Kampala and will go on daily.