Uganda: High Court Grants Besigye Shs 100 Million Bail

The High court has granted former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye bail.

Besigye, who is facing treason charges was released by Justice Wilson Masalu Musene released today morning on a non-cash bond of Shs 100 million.

Justice Musene ordered Besigye to refrain from any acts of violence until his treason case is disposed of. Musene also ordered him to report to the deputy registrar of the Criminal Division of the High court every two weeks.

He ordered each of his sureties including Gen Mugisha Muntu, the FDC party president, Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the FDC secretary general also Budadiri West MP, Roland Kaginda Mugume, the Rukungiri MP and Lubaga division mayor, Joyce Sebugwawo to execute a non-cash bond of Shs 100 million.

Prior to delivering his ruling, Justice Musene said court is neutral and has no sides. He said since the case is of treason, the message court is sending is that of tolerance, hope and peaceful coexistence. He said Uganda should be a free and safe society for all with emphasis on peaceful resolutions to conflicts.

Justice Musene directed Besigye to live in peace and desist from causing violence as his case is pending in court. On the grounds presented by Besigye in his bail application, Justice Musene noted that it is the presumption of law that one is innocent until proved guilty by a competent court or when they plead guilty. He said suspect's liberties should not be tramped upon especially when investigations are still being carried on.

He said Besigye satisfied court on circumstances provided by law in his bail application. He said Besigye was in 2005 charged with a similar offense, treason and he complied with the bail condition when he reported to court on all 39 times.

On the ground of Besigye being of advanced age, the state never applied to cross examine the accused nor swore an affidavit in rebuttal. Consequently he said, Besigye proved on oath that he is sixty years, which is an advanced age since anybody who is 50 years and above is considered such by the courts.

Justice Musene also said it would be "mockery of the judicial process" if Besigye was denied bail yet on previous occasions he never violated bail conditions. He further said Besigye had submitted that he has no previous convictions and the state did not object implying that it was true.

Musene said there must be a balance between the "seriousness of a crime", in this case treason with the "personal liberties of the accused".

On whether Besigye will interfere with investigations once granted bail, Musene said the state didn't prove the claim. He said although Besigye is influential and has a large following and for that matter may interfere with investigations if granted bail, the state didn't prove the claim by affidavit.

Quoting retired principal Judge James Ogola, in the 2005 treason trial of Besigye, Justice Musene, said the right to liberty is crucial in a free and democratic society and that in the present case, the liberty of one is the liberty for all and must not be curtailed wantonly or arbitrarily.

Adding: "If one applies for bail in a competent court, such a person shouldn't be left to go empty handed."

On the sureties, Justice Musene said the state admitted that they are substantial and didn't raise any objection. He said Besigye had impressed court with the high caliber of his sureties. On the allegations that Besigye has publicly declared a campaign of defiance, the judge said the matter is subjudice since it is before the Constitutional court.

On Monday, the principal state attorney, Florence Akello asked court to dismiss Besigye's bail application, saying treason is a serious offense, which attracts a death sentence upon conviction. She argued that Besigye is a political figure, with a huge following and could interfere with investigations once granted bail.

Akello also expressed fear that Besigye would resume his defiance campaign if he's granted bail. She cited a sworn affidavit, in which Besigye vowed to resume the defiance campaign. She also noted that 60 years is not an exceptional circumstance for, which the accused should be released.

She demanded for proof showing that Dr. Besigye is 60 years old as claimed. Defence lawyer Ernest Kalibala said since his incarceration, Besigye had had difficulty accessing his personal documents including his birth certificate.

Akello conceded that the sureties presented in court by the accused are substantial. Besigye was arrested in May and charged with treason after allegedly declaring himself winner of the February 18 presidential election.

Source: The Observer