21 June 2019

Uganda: 70-Year-Old Accused of Stoning Museveni Car Charged With Treason

An elderly man accused of stoning President Museveni's vehicle appeared before Gulu Grade One Magistrate, Mr Isaac Kintu, yesterday and was charged with treason, a capital offence.

Mr Omari Risasi Ciruson, a former Uganda Army soldier, and resident of Adriko Cell in Arua Municipality's River Oli Division, was added to an amended charge sheet of 36 other suspects alleged to have attacked a presidential motorcade in Arua Town on August 13, 2018.

He had no lawyer to represent him in the magistrate's chamber, where the charges were read to him, and subsequently remanded to Gulu Central Prison until July 4, when his co-accused are expected to appear in court for mention of their case.

Mr Jerome Angina is prosecuting the case in which those charged include Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, his Arua Municipality, Ntungamo Municipality and Mityana Municipality counterparts Kassiano Wadri, Gerald Karuhanga and Mr Francis Zaake, respectively.

Police in Arua summoned Mr Ciruson on Tuesday, this week, ostensibly to record a statement on the August 2018 chaos, but instead detained him and transferred him to Gulu on Wednesday.

Prosecution alleges that on August 13, 2018, which was the last day of campaigns for Arua Municipality parliamentary by-election, President Museveni, who was in Arua town to drum up last-minute support for ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party flag bearer, Ms Nusura Tiperu, ran in a crowd of opposition supporters returning from Mr Wadri's rally.

The supporters, investigators allege, pelted a stone and smashed the glass of the hind door of a vehicle carrying the President's personal luggage, endangering his life in the process.

In the Gulu Grade One Magistrate's chambers yesterday, prosecution averred that Ciruson, and others still at large, with intent to do harm to the President of Uganda, on August 13 while in Arua Town unlawfully aimed and threw stones, thereby hitting and smashing the rear windscreen of a presidential car.

He wasn't allowed to take plea because of a capital offence can only be tried by the High Court.

Mr Ciruson's lawyer, Mr Tonny Kitara, said he missed yesterday's session because the court registry did not give him the right information on the time of appearance in court of the accused. We could not independently verify this claim.

Mr Kitara rubbished the charge against his client, claiming it is not supported with evidence, and promised to file an application in court today for his release on bail.

"We are sure that the accused will be granted bail once the Resident Judge Stephen Mubiru is back at the High Court circuit since he is the only one able to issue out bail for his nature of offense. Arrest and charge of Ciruson is purely politicking by the state," he said.

The summons

In March, this year, Gulu Magistrate's Court summoned detectives to provide update on progress of investigation into the treason case and explain circumstances surrounding claims by some of the suspects that their properties retained by police, including underwear, had vanished.

Other items included 20 mobile phones and an i-Pad, four vehicles [a Toyota Tundra in which Bobi Wine's driver Yasin Kawuma was shot dead, Land Cruiser, Toyota Kluger and a grader] and cash in excess of Shs90m.

The detectives said they were stuck with password-locked communication gadgets, and asked court to grant an order to compel the suspects to surrender their passwords or unlock the phones.

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