Heavy security as Jamil Mukulu trial kicks-off
There was heavy deployment at the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala as Justice Eva Luswata began the pre-trail hearing of the charges against the former rebel leader Jamil Mukulu and 34 other suspects.
Mukulu who led the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel outfit is co-accused with Australian based Ugandan cardiologist Dr Aggrey Kiyingi who was not in court. They are jointly charged with murder, aggrevated robbery, terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism, committing crimes against humanity, attempted murder and belonging to a terrorist organization.
Mukulu was arrested in Tanzania in April 2015 where he had been disguising as a car dealer. He was later extradited to Uganda and detained at the now closed Nalufenya police detention facility in Jinja district
At court, Mukulu and his co-accused arrived in a tightly guarded prisons bus with their hands on cuffs and legs chained.
As he emerged from the prisons bus, Mukulu turned to press cameras saying that he is not guilty of the charges against him
“I am not a murderer, the people who killed are out there and you know them, this country is full of mafias”, said Mukulu.
Mukulu is represented by lawyers Caleb Alaka and Julius Ocen while Wandera Ogalo is representing one of Mukulu’s co-accused, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi has two and JEEMA president Asuman Basaalirwa has nine suspects he is representing in the trial.
The rest of the suspects have no lawyers.
During Monday’s session, the trial judge rejected calls by the suspects’ lawyers to have the handcuffs removed from their client fearing a repeat of the incident at Chief Magistrate’s Court in Masaka where two high profile suspects escaped.
Basaalirwa and Alaka also raised complaints against the state which they said is arm-twisting their clients to admit the charges against them. The lawyers claimed that some their clients had been given documents to sign confessing committing the crimes, and offering to testify against some of their co-accused, and put court to notice that once the said documents are produced in court, they will reject them.
“Torture of the suspects is also appalling, some of the suspects were tortured on arrest and detention and most of them are still nursing injuries four years after they were arrested. Accessing them has also been extremely difficult; at Nalufenya, we were always chased away while in prison, we are not given privacy,” Basaalirwa told court.
The pre-trail session is expected to take 30 days and once Judge Luswata establishes a prima facie case against the suspects, she will be joined by judges Moses Mukiibi and Susan Okalany for the hearing of the case.
Mukulu’s ADF rebel outfit was formed in the early 1990s with bases in the ranges of the Rwenzori Mountain. It intensified its activities after the 1996 presidential elections, carrying out deadly attacks such as the June 8, 1998 attack on Kichwamba Technical Institute in Kabarole district.
During the attack, the rebels set on fire three dormitories killing at least 80 students, and abducted about 100 others. It is also blamed for a spate of bomb attacks in Kampala.