10 June 2010

Uganda: Second Cocaine Suspect Pleads Diplomatic Immunity

Nairobi — A second Ugandan charged in Kenya in connection with trafficking cocaine worth sh2.2b has declined to take plea, arguing that he has diplomatic immunity.

John Mugisha, who says he is a Ugandan diplomat, was jointly charged with Anne Birungi Bisaso, also known as Gillian Kiconco. The two were sent back on remand on Wednesday. Their cases will be reviewed today.

Mugisha was arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday.

He first appeared in court on Tuesday. Today, the prosecution will submit their defence opposing the granting of a bond to the accused.

Kibera Senior Principal Magistrate Grace Nzioka ordered Mugisha, who said he was a Ugandan High Commission official, to submit his identification documents.

Mugisha produced three diplomatic cards. Two of them had already expired. The third was to expire in 2013. He also produced a passport.

Court documents showed that Mugisha was a protocol officer at the Ugandan embassy and had paid for the parcels that had the illegal drugs.

But a top Ugandan High Commission official in Kenya disowned Mugisha as their employee.

Bisaso's lawyers Cliff Ombeta and Kirathe Wandungi asked Kibera chief magistrate Uniter Kidula to grant her bond, saying the offence is bailable under Kenyan laws.

The lawyers told the court that although a foreigner, their client had the right to be granted bail.

Prosecution led by chief inspector Joseph Musyoka asked the court for more time until Friday to reply to the defence lawyers' bail application.

The accused was first charged before senior principal magistrate Grace Nzioka on Monday and remanded until the bail application could be entertained by the chief magistrate.

Inspector Mary Jepkorir urged the court not to release the suspect, saying she was likely to abscond.

Jepkorir said Bisaso was facing a serious offence that attracts a fine of Ksh1m or three times the market value of the drugs (Ksh254,893,200) in addition to life imprisonment.

She said in view of this, the accused might be tempted to escape if granted bail.

Bisaso was arrested with 21.2kg of cocaine valued at Ksh84,964,400. It had been concealed in two black boxes each labelled United Nations Diplomatic Bag.

But Bisaso's lawyers said she was innocent until proved guilty. They asked the magistrate to ignore the prosecution objection and release their client on bail since the case may take long.

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