3 February 2013

Uganda: No Bail for Captain Mukula

Court to hear his appeal expeditiously:

Capt Mike Mukula's stay in jail could go on for little longer after court officials raised red flags about his bail.

Mukula has already filed an appeal in the High court (anti-corruption division), against his conviction and four-year prison term. But Justice David Wangutusi, who is scheduled to hear Mukula's appeal tomorrow, has cast doubt on his bail application.

A source in the High court told The Observer on Thursday that Justice Wangutusi discouraged Mukula from proceeding with his bail application and instead offered to give his appeal prominence and a speedy hearing.

"The applicant [Mukula] wanted to apply for bail pending the hearing of the appeal but the appellant court preferred to have the matter handled expeditiously because the judge said he is around and eager to dispose of the appeal," said the source.

The deal, some lawyers say, could offer Mukula a golden opportunity to walk free quickly, especially if his conviction is overturned. Mukula is challenging his conviction and sentence. On January 18, 2013, Chief Magistrate Irene Akankwasa found the former state minister for Health guilty of embezzling Sh210 million from the Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunization (GAVI) account and subsequently handed him a four-year prison sentence.

Through his lawyers Tibaijuka & Co Advocates, Mukula on January 28, 2013 filed the Memorandum of Appeal arguing, among other things, that the presiding Chief Magistrate erred in law and fact when she reversed the burden of proof and wrongly imposed it on him. This morning (Monday), Justice David Wangutusi is scheduled to hear this appeal.

In the memo of appeal, Mukula contends that the magistrate failed to properly evaluate the evidence adduced at the trial, thereby coming to the wrong and biased conclusion that he received the money in question, stole it and was thus guilty.

"The learned Chief Magistrate erred in law and in fact in that in sentencing the Applicant, she regarded a custodial sentence as being mandatory and did not consider the option of a fine," the memo appeal says.

Mukula also faults the chief magistrate for wrongly holding that the prosecution had not departed from the particulars of the offence appearing in the charge sheet. He further avers that Akankwasa was biased when she put him on his defence for an expressly specified purpose, only to turn round in her judgment, to his detriment.

Recently president Museveni offered to meet the legal costs of Mukula's appeal and cautioned him against speaking ill about government and wait for his possible bail pending the appeal.

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