In a 119-page ruling yesterday, Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo convicted eight of the 13 men accused of killing 76 people in twin bombings in Kampala in 2010. Security operatives, however, refused to let the acquitted persons walk.
They are Yahya Suleiman Mbuthia, Mohamed Hamid Suleiman, Dr Ismail Kalule, Omar Awadh Omar and Abubakeri Batemyetto. In response, their lead counsel Caleb Alaka said: "Once a judge acquits somebody, they cannot be rearrested unless they have committed another offence.
"As far as I'm concerned, they have not committed any other crime in Uganda. What the security operatives have done is uncalled for, unconstitutional and it should be condemned because you cannot take someone back to prison yet they have been set free. So we don't know what they are going to do with my clients."
The lawyer, however, said he was happy with the judgment that acquitted five of his clients. "I never expected that everyone would be released. Since five have been acquitted, it shows I have done some work," he said.
The eight convicts who included three Ugandans, four Kenyans and a Tanzanian are: Isa Ahmed Luyima (Ugandan), Hassan Hussein Agade (Kenyan), Edris Christopher Magondu (Kenyan), Habib Suleiman Njoroge (Kenya), Hassan Haruna Luyima (Ugandan), Muhammad Ali Mohammed (Kenyan), Sulaiman Hijar Nyamandondo (Tanzanian) and Muzafar Luyima (Ugandan).
The suspects were found guilty of terrorism, 79 counts of murder and 10 counts of attempted murder. In his judgment, Justice Owiny-Dollo noted that the eight suspects were involved in committing the crimes in different locations in Uganda, Kenya and Somalia.
He said they also participated in one way or the other in planting explosives at Kyadondo Rugby club and the Ethiopian Village restaurant on July 11, 2010 during the screening of the World Cup finals.
At 8am, the upbeat suspects had arrived at the court in the prisons Coaster minibus amid tight security. But when Justice Owiny-Dollo started reading his judgment at 10:45am, the smiles vanished and the mood changed from defiance to gloom. A sad-looking Mbuthia held his cheek in his palm. Isa, who was beamy at the start, held on to his Qur'an throughout the trial, reciting prayers.
Awadh and Agade's smiles also vanished, while a pensive Nyamandondo chewed hard on his gum. As fate would have it, Justice Owiny-Dollo started by calling Isa into the accused's dock. In convicting Isa, the judge said he believed the evidence of two self-confessed conspirators-turned-state-witnesses, Mahmoud Mugis ha and Edris Nsubuga.
Mugisha, who was the first prosecution witness, said in his court testimony that he trained with the Somali Islamist terror group al-Shabab together with suspects Isa Luyima, Agade, Njoroge, Mohammad Ali Mohammad and Nyamandondo.
Mugisha also claimed that he, together with Nyamandondo, a Tanzanian national, used a Toyota Land Cruiser to transport the bombs from Nairobi to Uganda. According to Mugisha, he was arrested at the Kenya-Uganda border but Nyamandondo slipped through. Mugisha, who served a lenient five-year sentence in return for his cooperation with the state, said Nyamandondo proceeded to Kampala and delivered the bombs to Isa [Luyima] who was based in suburban Namasuba along Entebbe road.
Nsubuga, the second state witness and a convict serving a 25-year-jail sentence on his own admission of guilt for detonating the second bomb at Kyadondo Rugby grounds, revealed that he kept the killer bombs for three months before they were detonated.
Nsubuga said Isa returned to Uganda from Nairobi early in January 2010 and told him that he wanted to stay permanently in Uganda because Kenyan authorities were trailing him for his alleged involvement in Mujahedeen activities. Mujahedeen are religious fighters in Islam. According to Nsubuga, he met Isa at Pioneer mall in Kampala and at that time he already knew that Isa was involved with Mujahedeen because he told him so in 2009.
On May 9, 2010, Nsubuga said Isa called him and informed him that he was expecting some "items" [explosives], which he requested him to keep and he accepted.
According to Nsubuga, Isa was in the company of Nyamandondo in a tourist Toyota Land Cruiser and that they met at Busabala junction [off Entebbe road] and he took them to his residence at Najjanankumbi. At Nsubuga's house, Isa removed the bags from the vehicle and a toolbox and told him to keep them safely.
After going through all the testimonies against Isa, Justice Owiny-Dollo said: "In the event, I'm satisfied that the prosecution has discharged the burden that lay on it; by proving, beyond any reasonable doubt, that burden, that Isa Ahmed Luyima was the mastermind and central character in the execution in Kampala of the heinous plan, hatched in Somalia by the al-Shabab, to attack Uganda and thus punish her for having contributed to the Amisom forces in Somalia."
The judge also found Agade, accused number one, guilty of all the charges. The judge relied on the evidence of Mugisha who said that they underwent military training with Agade in the Somali towns of Kismayu and Barawe.
Perhaps the most emotional person of all turned out to be Magondu who burst into tears upon being convicted by the judge. The convicts will return today, Friday, to hear their sentences.
Outside court, a surly mood prevailed. Some journalists and relatives of the suspects who were locked outside the court premises were an angry lot. The road from the Constitution Square to Grand Imperial hotel was half-closed and so was the one to CPS, Kampala.
Some parents and relatives of the suspects wailed and begged policemen at the gate to allow them into court to hear the ruling.
"I am very much annoyed with you policemen. You're about the age of my two sons in there [court] meaning that I can also be your father. If you knew the anger I have now, you would let me in... ," said Sheikh Sulaiman Kabega, in his 90s.
Asked which suspects are his sons, Kabega said Dr Ismail Kalule and Batemyetto (all acquitted).
"Unless there is something they are hiding, these people have been letting me into court. Why deny me now when the judge is going to deliver judgment on them?" Kabega asked.
Another sobbing woman in a veil said she was at court to listen to the verdict of a relative she only identified as Umar. Policemen guarding outside the court premises missed lunch. When the double cabin truck brought posho and beans, the driver hooted and told them to find him at the Constitution Square.
"Those food handlers are not considerate. We were given orders not to leave our stations. One has to choose between going for food and risk the wrath of our bosses... ," a policeman said 20 minutes after the food vehicle had left at 2:30pm.
Source: The Observer.