Uganda: Sejusa Aides to Appeal Conviction of Treason

Defence lawyers vowed to appeal last week's treason conviction of six aides to Gen David Sejusa, describing prosecution evidence as littered with falsehoods.

On July 5, the six aides were convicted by the General Court Martial at Makindye for plotting to overthrow President Museveni's government. But defense lawyers say they will appeal because court relied on false evidence. The new military court chairman, Lt Gen Andrew Gutti, said he would read out the sentences, which could be death, on July 14.

"We have started drafting grounds for an appeal which we will file at the General Court martial of appeal shortly after the court martial delivers the sentences to our clients. It is in this court that we will expose the malicious falsehoods in the arrest, trial, conviction and sentencing," said lead defence lawyer David Mushabe.

The convicts, who have been on remand for three years and four months, are Lance Corporals Grace Rwakyozi Nasasira and Geoffrey Karuhanga, Pte Frank Ninsiima, James Karuhanga Nayebare, Moses Kakarugahi Nuwagaba and Abel Twinamatsiko.

Whereas Nasasira and Geoffrey Karuhanga were convicted for treason, the rest of the accused were convicted for aiding and abetting the same crime. The six were convicted on testimony from Corporal Sam Rwija, the first prosecution witness.

Gutti said prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt; that all the accused communicated frequently and met at Sekanyonyi trading centre in Mityana district and Ntinda in Kampala, and also asked several soldiers mostly from the Special Forces Command (SFC) to join their team at the urging of Sejusa.

"We are going to prove to the appellant court that the lower court failed to detect that the sum total of the prosecution's evidence is inundated with malicious falsehoods, hearsay, corruption, inconsistencies and contradictions that no reasonable tribunal can convict the accused and sentence them to death," Mushabe said.

He said although Rwija testified that he was deployed to attend the meetings that plotted the overthrow of government, there was no telephone records presented in court to show some form of communication between the accused and him. There was also no recorded conversations or videography evidence of such meetings presented in court as exhibits, he said.

In his testimony, Rwija claimed that Ninsiima called him several times by telephone to attend the alleged three hour meeting at Sekanyonyi on April 29, 2013. He said he reported the matter to the director of intelligence in SFC Maj Herbert Nabimanya, on May 2, 2013.

Mushabe contends that Rwija, who court solely depended on to convict the accused persons, failed to offer proof by way of a telephone record of such a communication.

Most importantly, he said, Rwija did not state with unequivocal particularity who said what during those three hours of the alleged meeting, leaving his evidence unsubstantiated, uncorroborated and unbelievable.

Mushabe also contends that for Rwija to sit on such crucial information for four days before reporting to his superiors demonstrates that he did not believe there was a security threat to the government or did not believe it.

Before he died, the then GCM chairman, Maj Gen Levi Karuhanga, had asked Rwija to pinpoint the accuseds' telephone numbers in his phone book. Rwija said then that he didn't have the numbers in his phone book yet he had written them down in his statement.

Mushabe also said they will prove in their appeal that the GCM did not hear from crucial witnesses like the CMI officers who interrogated some of the convicts and the arresting police officer. He said those witnesses remained a mystery to the trial court.

Whereas in his statement Rwija alleged that four generals; Sejusa, Mugisha Muntu, Benon Biraaro and Brig Wasswa Balikalega also wanted to overthrow the government, on cross examination, he denied ever making such claims against Biraaro and Balikalega. He claimed that in his police statement, he had only talked about Sejusa yet the names of the four generals appeared in his statement.

When he was shown his written statement, he recanted his earlier statement and admitted: "Yes I talked about them but I had forgotten".

Interviewed recently, Ninsiima, the third convict, told The Observer that he and his colleagues trust that their defense lawyers will appeal successfully.

"Right from the beginning we knew this was staged and we refused to defend ourselves. We are punished because we refused to pin Sejusa despite the torture we went through and promises of money and houses," Ninsiima said.

He said he had never been an aide to Sejusa.

Source: The Observer

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