Three Muslim clerics were arrested in police raids on their homes, days after terror alerts were issued in the run- up to Christmas holidays, The Observer has learnt.
The Imams, Jamal Kiyemba of Masjid Taq'wa (Zzana), Ismail Ssemakula, the deputy Imam of Masjid Hidaya (Zzana) and another only identified as Muhammad, were arrested between December 25-27 and detained. Jamal Kiyemba, a former US detainee at Guantanamo bay, according to a family source, was arrested on Christmas day from his home at Zzana, a Kampala suburb and detained at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka on charges of aggravated kidnap and child smuggling.
"On [Boxing day], he was brought on a police patrol truck with a dog and [they] searched the mosque, they later did a similar search at his house but did not find anything apart from some old [handsets of] mobile phones and some DVD copies," Twaha Kasirye, the Imam of Masjid Hidaya, told The Observer on Saturday.
Besides being a deputy Imam at Masjid Hidaya, Ssemakula is also an electrician. The police also searched his workshop and reportedly picked a few nails and some audio radio cassettes.
Police returned a day later on December 27 and arrested Muhammad, a car dealer, who was transferred to Kampala Central police station (CPS) and later to the Naguru Counter-Terrorism headquarters. By press time, friends and relatives said they had been denied access to him.
"I was with his wife at CPS and they [police] told us that we could not see him, I was later told that he had been transferred to Naguru, and when I went there, still they told me I couldn't see him," Kasirye said.
Although he kept waiting at Naguru till Saturday evening, he was still unsure he would be allowed to talk to Muhammad, because earlier requests to speak to Kiyemba and Ssemakula had been denied by police.
"Sheikh Kiyemba's wife had tried to take him food but still the police did not allow her," Kasirye said.
Family sources insist they were arrested by policemen in plain clothes and others in uniform. Kiyemba was directly taken to SIU Kireka, Ssemakula to Kira division police and Muhammad to CPS. However, police's official spokespersons denied knowledge of the arrests and detentions.
"I'm not aware, I think you better contact Madam [Judith] Nabakooba [Police Spokesperson], Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesman Ibin Ssenkumbi told us on Saturday.
Nabakooba did not answer our calls, but her driver, told us that she was not in position to speak to us.
"She can't speak to you now, I will tell her that you called," the driver told us. Her deputy, Patrick Onyango on Saturday said: "I was at SIU yesterday and did not see [Kiyemba], so I'm not aware."
Until February 2006, Kiyemba was one of the inmates at the US detention facility at Guantanamo bay. He was transferred to Guantanamo following his March 2002 arrest in Pakistan where he had gone to study Arabic and the Qur'an.
Before his arrest, he had been granted an indefinite leave to remain in the UK following the death of his father and went to live in the UK with his mother, eventually embarking on a degree in pharmacy at De Montfort University, which he never completed.
According to a story published on February 19, 2006 by The Daily Mail, after his release from Guantanamo, the British government sent him back to Uganda, and prohibited him from ever setting foot again in the UK.
He was released after an administrative review at Guantanamo assessed him as "being of low intelligence value, and of posing a medium risk."