Omar Awadh Omar and others were acquitted of any involvement in the July 2010 Kampala City twin bombings, following a lengthy trial. Two years later, they are still in detention, awaiting trial on similar charges.
Thursday, June 14, also marked two World Cup tournaments since their arrest and subsequent acquittal in the bombings that targeted crowds watching the 2010 World Cup soccer final between Spain and the Netherlands.
Of the five, only Dr Ismail Kalule, whose only crime, in the original trial, was to stand surety for one of the prosecution witnesses, according to Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, who tried the case, has been released.
Justice Owiny-Dollo has since been promoted to deputy chief justice and is the second highest ranking judicial officer in the country.
Dr Kalule’s freedom did not come on a silver platter. Before he was set free, security operatives grabbed him from the premises of the Kololo-based International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court and detained him for two weeks before letting him go on April 22.
The rest, Abubakari Batemyetto (Ugandan), Yahya Suleiman Mbuthia, and Mohamed Hamid Suleiman (Kenyans) are, it is suspected, held in Luzira Prisons uncertain of when or whether they will be tried afresh or like in the case of Dr Kalule released unconditionally.
Four days later, on June 1, 2016, the five were charged again over what police said were fresh allegations of terrorism and related conspiracies at the Chief Magistrates Court in Jinja District. Only the acquitted face the fresh charges.
Mr Caleb Alaka, one of the lawyers representing the accused said in an interview that the new charges are unfounded. “They were charged with terrorism, that while in Luzira, they tried to blow a bridge and that they had literature regarding planning of terrorism activities. This was disclosure information in the trial in which they were acquitted,” he said.
“The release of Sheikh Dr Ismail Kalule shows the government acknowledges this unjust state of affairs, and now their actions must extend to Omar, despite clear evidence of British and American complicity in his incarceration and mistreatment. After so long, Omar deserves nothing less than to be free to resume his life with his loved ones,” – Feroze Boda, spokesperson for CAGE Africa, said in an email to Sunday Monitor.
CAGE Africa is a branch of CAGE UK, an advocacy organisation that works to end abuses meted out by states as part of the global “War on Terror”.
On July 11, less than a month from now, Ugandans will be commemorating eight years since deadly twin bombings which killed 76 people and injured more than 80. The bombings, one at Ethiopian Village restaurant and two at Kyadondo Rugby Club twenty minutes later, targeted crowds watching the World Cup soccer final between Spain and the Netherlands. American, Indian, Irish, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Congolese citizens were also killed.
“Let me check on the status of this matter. But all I remember, fresh charges were preferred against the group before the Jinja Chief Magistrates Court, but I need to confirm if inquiries in the new charges were completed by the state and if the team was committed to the High Court for trial. After committals, cases are handled on a first-in, first-out basis, also depending on the availability of funds for the trial sessions and the readiness by the DPP to produce the evidence, witnesses at the trial,” Mr Solomon Muyita, a senior communication officer of the Judiciary, said in response to our inquiry about the case.
Sunday Monitor also attempted to speak to officials at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Ms Jane Okuo Kajuga, the spokesperson of the DPP, said she was out of the country while her deputy, Ms Irene Nakimbugwe, declined to speak to us. We also contacted DPP Mike Chibita, he who did not respond to our repeated calls and messages.
Mr Alaka said the lawyers would continue to pursue a trial or an unconditional release of their clients.
“We have raised complaints and if they committed any offences, we want them to be tried. We know that it is unconstitutional,” he said.