Kampala, 06th/Jan/2012; Augustine Okello, a radio presenter at Rhino FM (a branch of Top Radio) in Lira has finally been committed for trial to the High Court in Kampala after spending six months in jail.
Okello a.k.a Rouks was kidnapped on the evening of 13th of July 2011 under unclear circumstances in Lira District after holding a number of meetings with the district internal security officer (DISO) Stephen Eriaku and another police man attached to Lira Central Police station.
He was detained incommunicado for more than two weeks in different places including Kitante based Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and Kireka, the headquarters of Rapid Response Unit (RRU). RRU has since been disbanded and incorporated into other security organs.
He was brought to court after Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) filled for habeas corpus at High Court in Lira which pressurized security agencies and he was later taken to a subordinate court in Kampala (Buganda Road court).
Okello is the second journalist from Northern Uganda to be charged with treason after Mega FM’s Otim Patrick who was kidnapped in a similar way and is currently languishing in Luzira prison pending the hearing of his case.
Okello was charged with treason on 1st/Aug/2011 without a charge sheet and the defense lawyers are still struggling to access the prosecution file.
Attempts however were made by HRNJ-Uganda’s Lawyer Duncan Ondimu who applied for pre-trial bail in the High Court which was heard on the 24th and 25th of October last year. However, court denied the accused bail on the grounds that the medical form was vaguely written by the medical officer at the prisons, the sureties were not substantial and that proof of property and the particulars of Augustine’s land in Lira were not strictly proven.
“We welcome the development but court should consider releasing all suspects including the two journalists who are languishing in Luzira prison’s remand section because police has failed to conclude investigations into their cases. The police and other security agencies should only arrest after thorough investigations in order to avoid long pre-trial detentions.” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.
He stressed the need for a well designed mechanism that will audit operations of the police in order to recommend for amendments in the police Act.
We also call upon the judiciary with immediate effect to consider releasing all suspects who have spent more than six months on remand and expedite their trials.
HRNJ-Uganda is closely keeping track of the case and eagerly waiting for court to fix the hearing date.