Court has temporarily halted the hearing of a case in which minister for Karamoja Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu is accused of causing loss of public property after her alleged involvement in the diversion of iron sheets meant for the vulnerable people in Karamoja sub-region.
The trial has been halted by Anti-Corruption Court Judge Jane Kajuga Okuo pending determination of an application in which Kitutu is challenging the trial on grounds of torture and several human rights violations allegedly inflicted on her while in police custody.
Kitutu is jointly charged with her brother Michael Naboya Kitutu and personal assistant Joshua Abaho.
Prosecution states that between the month of June 2022 and January 2023 at the office of the Prime Minister’s stores in Namanve , Mukono District, Kitutu caused loss of public property in form of 9,000 prepainted Iron sheets of gauge 28 by diverting them from the intended purpose of benefiting the Karamoja Community Empowerment Programme to her own benefit and to the benefit of third parties having reason to believe that such act would lead into loss of the said property.
However, in the said application which now court wants to first determine, Kitutu who is the only applicant says on April 3, 2023, she got a phone call from the Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja directing her to go and meet the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) Director Tom Magambo to avoid embarrassment and being arrested forcefully.
That upon reaching the CID Kibuli, Kitutu was immediately arrested and interrogated by nine police officers who also confiscated her phones, and the following day, she was driven to the parliamentary committee on Presidential Affairs where she was forced to take oath despite having denied an opportunity to instruct her lawyers.
According to the minister, she was kept in police custody for three days without being given food and water despite asking for it. The minister also claims that she was subjected to all forms of torture, blindfolded, and driven to Kayunga district at night in search of iron sheets, in a manner that was meant to force her to confess to crimes she had not committed.
Kitutu contends that the actions of the state agents were calculated to deny her a fair hearing and to cast her as a villain in the public domain and as such, her rights were violated irreparably and gravely compromised.
She further argues that the process leading to her arrest by the Uganda Police Force, the interrogation by the Parliamentary Presidential Affairs Committee, and other state institutions subjected her to torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment during the course of investigations against her.
Kitutu has further accused the DPP of violating her rights after being denied disclosure of exculpatory exhibits and documents they intend to rely on to prosecute her. She now wants the charges against her dismissed.
As such, Kitutu’s lawyers led by Jude Byamukama have asked the court to halt the trial pending the determination of this application filed against the Attorney General
However, prosecution led by state attorney Jonathan Muwaganya asked court to dismiss the application on grounds that for the High Court to stay proceedings, the question of violation of fundamental human rights should have been raised in the course of the proceedings before the Court. In this case,
In her ruling, Okuo halted the trial saying court is expected to take action and therefore disagreed that it has not been adduced before the course of proceedings within her court.
The main case has been fixed for September 14, 2023.