After six years since the July 2010 tragic incident and over a year since trial started, link http://csv-vidin.eu/media/widgetkit/widgets/twitter/twitter.php the High Court in Kampala convicted and sentenced 5 people to life imprisonment and 2 others to 50 years in jail for masterminding the twin blasts at Lugogo that killed over 70 people.
The trial judge Alphonse Owiny-Dollo sentenced Hussein Hassan Agade, capsule http://citybreakguide.ro/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/json-api-config.php Idris Magondu, http://curaacufeni.com/wp-admin/includes/class-theme-upgrader-skin.php Issa Luyima, Suleiman Njoroge and Muhammad Ali Muhammad to life imprisonment whereas Hassan Haruna Luyima and Seleman Hijjar Nyamandondo received 50 years jail as punishments for their roles in the July 11 Lugogo and Ethiopian Village restaurant blasts.
“The acts left many people permanently dead whereas others have scars that will never heal on their bodies. They must therefore attract a heavy punishment,” the judge said.
The furious judge however said that the maximum death sentence to the charges of terrorism and murder would not assuage the public and relatives to the victims adding that spending their life in prison would deter others from participating in similar inhumane acts or else they would be worked upon by the long arm of the law.
“Your acts which targeted noncombatants are not justifiable and had nothing to do with the UPDF deployment in Somalia because some of those who died were not supporting the deployment ,”Justice Owiny-Dollo added.
The judge however sentenced Muzafaru Luyima to community service after finding him guilty of being an accessory to commission of the said crimes.
Earlier on Thursday, the same judge had set free 5 people including Omar Awadh Omar, Suleiman Mbuthia, Muhammad Hamid Muhammad, Dr.Ismael Kalule and Abubaker Batemyeto whom he said had no evidence on record pinning them .
Meawhile, the first ever one year terror trial in East Africa had a number of highlights as singled out by Chimp Corp Kenneth Kazibwe who followed the case up to its conclusion.
Lead Prosecutor Kagezi Shot Dead
A few days to the kickoff of the trial, lead prosecutor and senior state attorney Joan Kagezi was shot dead by unknown assailants as she returned home at Kiwatule, East of the capital Kampala.
Earlier reports attributed her death to her involvement in the case which was considered big as it involved suspected former Al Shabaab members.
The case was halted for more than a month before later another prosecutor and senior principal state Attorney Suzan Okalany was chosen to replace the fallen Kagezi.
Lawyers Given Police Guards
Shortly after the untimely death of Kagezi, prosecutors and defense lawyers were in a shock as they feared for their lives prompting government to provide police guards to each of them.
Following a meeting with the trial judge Alphonse Owiny- Dollo, security chiefs and CIID officials, it was agreed that each of the lawyers gets 2 anti-terrorism police officers as personal guards in a bid to enhance their security which was at the time considered at risk.
Witness Describes Kampala Attack as a Success
In March 2015, while testifying 32 year old Muhamood Mugisha who was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and later used as a state witness revealed that the Kampala attack was a success according to its planners.
“Though I was in prison after being sentenced for forging a Uganda passport earlier in April, am sure the mission was a success because I saw on TV and also heard the Al Shabaab boasting that they were responsible for the attack,”Mugisha told court when asked to comment about the attack.
Suspect Claims Being Forced to Eat Pork
In July 2015, 33 year old Hassan Haruna Luyima broke down in court as he narrated how he was forced to eat pork by the Joint Anti – Terrorism Task Force [JATT] operatives, against the doctrine of his Islamic religion.
“I heard them order for their favorite chips and pork and one day they ordered me to also feed on it when I begged them for food,” Luyima narrated as he broke into tears. “I first refused but they became agitated and asked me not to play around with them. They forced me to eat it as well as putting my head in the plate.”
Suspect Undresses in Court
At the climax of the trial one of the suspects, 38 year old Isa Luyima undressed in a bid to show scars of wounds inflicted onto his body by security operatives from Kenya and Uganda while torturing him so as to force him admit masterminding the Lugogo twin blasts.
He narrated how he was forced to bite a stone on top of being flogged so as he could own being part of Somalia based Al Shabaab terrorist group.
“Two men threw me into a bathtub before turning on water pipes. I was fully immersed in the water and struggled for breath. I was later asked to move on my back, an exercise I could not afford due to horrible pain,”Luyima narrated as he undressed to show court the scars on his behind.
Police Officer Weeps
In July 2015 a senior police officer, 45 year old Benard Tagoya attached to Kidepo region as the logistics officers wept as he narrated the nasty ordeal of the events on the eventful day of the Kampala attack that he witnessed.
There was a nasty smell plus blood smelling all over the place,” Tagoya narrated as tears rolled down his cheeks. “I took cover and I immediately smelt gun powder .I then realized it was a bomb and I told people to go down but many did it while others didn’t.”
He added,” There were screams everywhere with many people still down in their seats and I thought they were still alive. I moved in to see if they were still breathing because the blast was too heavy that it could not leave a normal human being seated.”
FBI Takes Over Court
There was panic as US’ Federal Bureau of Investigations’ operatives almost took over the courtroom as they appeared as witnesses in the case.
More than 10 operatives guarded the 2 entrances to the courtroom and these were occasionally seen interchanging positions as one of the security measures to guard the witness in the dock against any harm.
At the climax of the panic caused by the FBI operatives, the Observer writer Derrick Kiyonga who was covering the case was arrested and shortly detained by police for allegedly speaking to the suspects and passing of chits.
Kiyonga was arrested shortly during recess as he got out of court premises and detained in an unknown place before being released.
Judge Suspends Case Over Journalist
The trial judge Alphonse Owiny-Dollo suspended hearing of the case following the arrest of one of the journalists (Derrick Kiyonga) covering the case and vowed that the case would not resume not until the journalist had been released.
“This (arrest) is wrong. Just like parliament, court has immunity and you cannot just arrest anyone from here (court),” said Justice Owiny-Dollo.
However, Kiyonga was later released without any charge slapped on him.
Major Exhibit Goes Missing
There was confusion and panic as a major exhibit went missing leading to a halt of the trial.
The phone printout for number 0732812681 that was scheduled to be presented as an exhibit by a financial analyst for Airtel went missing bringing confusion.
“The document has been stolen because we had it in the morning but right now not even its photocopy can be traced. I have been here since 8:30am but I can only see the envelope in which it was,” the lead prosecutor Okalany told the trial judge.
The prosecutors added,“ The photocopies and original document were packed together but all have gone missing. It’s a big problem to us and we can’t proceed to the next witness who is crucial in the case because his evidence will depend much on the missing document.”
However after a crosscheck at their chambers, the document was recovered and the trial continued.
East African DPPs Make Surprise Visit
In the course of the trial, the Directors of Public Prosecutions from the 3 East African countries led by Uganda’s Mike Chibita made a surprise visit to the court as a sign of togetherness in seeing that terror suspects are tried and justice prevails.
The Kampala High Court was a centre of attraction for security agencies right from both uniform and plain clothed police counter terrorism, JATT, Military police, VIPPU and other branches of security organs in a bid to ensure maximum safety.
The VIPPU boss Erias Kasirabo and his counter terrorism counterpart John Ndungutse were a common figure at the court whereas access to the court premises was always limited on top of the thorough checkups at the entrances.
The surrounding of the Kampala temple of justice were manned by black, muscular and armed to teeth JATT operatives.
The suspects were always driven in a security convoy of not less than 7 vehicles including a bus, prisons pickups and other security vehicles.
Suicide Bomber Head Tendered as Exhibit
It was another an unusual experience as the prosecution side brought the head of a suicide bomber who was responsible for the Lugogo twin blasts and tendered it in as an axhibit.
Fifty year old Charles Aruma, a police liason officer attached to Mulago city mortuary said he received 75 bodies plus 2 heads of human beings.
“Relatives were called in after labeling to be able to identify the bodies for burial and all the other bodies were taken save the 2 heads that have never been claimed up to now. I have kept them since then and I am still waiting for the relatives of the deceased to pick them,” the 50 year old told court in August 2015.
Witness Recalls Collecting Bag Full of Human Flesh
Another witness and police detective attached to CIID Prossy Namukasa narrated how horrifying she had been asked to rush to one of the scenes of the tragic incident at Ethiopian Village restaurant in Kabalagala only to be shocked by what she found out.
“The following day(after the bomb blasts) we were told to clean the area and we found broken chairs, tables, mobile phones and other documents scattered all over the area. We collected a polythene bag full of human flesh that had scattered around the whole area,” she told court in July 2015