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Court rules against Mabirizi, upholds trial of politicians in iron sheets scandal


Court rules against Mabirizi, upholds trial of politicians in iron sheets scandal

The High Court has ruled against Male Mabirizi, dismissing his application that sought to challenge the trial of politicians involved in the diversion of iron sheets and property. Mabirizi had petitioned the Anti-Corruption Court in April 2023, contesting the arrests, interrogations, detentions, and subsequent prosecutions of high-ranking officials, including the Vice President, Speaker, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and Local Government leaders.

The case stemmed from a directive by Minister Mary Gorreti Kitutu, who instructed the Accounting Officer to release 12,200 pieces of iron sheets for vulnerable groups in the Karamoja region. However, the iron sheets ended up in the possession of politicians scattered across the country, leading to the arrest of Kitutu, junior Minister Agness Nandutu, State Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Amos Lugoloobi, and others who remain at large.

Mabirizi’s petition aimed to nullify the investigations, arrests, detentions, and prosecutions carried out by the Uganda Police Force, Director of Public Prosecutions, and other state agencies. He argued that politicians should not be held accountable for matters of accountability in their ministries and departments, as they are policy-makers and not involved in accounting.

However, the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions, represented by Principal State Attorney Peter Masaba, urged the court to dismiss Mabirizi’s application, stating that it lacked merit and that Mabirizi did not have the legal standing to file it on behalf of the accused individuals. Masaba contended that the politicians were being charged as individuals, not because of their offices, and that the investigations and prosecutions were not piecemeal in nature.

In his ruling, Justice Lawrence Gidudu acknowledged Mabirizi’s legal standing to file the application but deemed it misconceived. He highlighted that political leaders can be charged with criminal offenses committed while in office, as evidenced by the Constitutional Court’s ruling in a previous case involving Vice President Professor Gilbert Bukenya. The court had held that immunity from prosecution was only temporary for the President and did not extend to political leaders.

Regarding the argument that accounting officers should be charged instead of ministers, Justice Gidudu explained that the decision to charge individuals is based on investigations and their level of participation. He emphasized that consolidating the files prematurely could violate the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Mabirizi expressed his intention to appeal the court’s decision. Meanwhile, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Jane Francis Abodo, announced on June 24th, 2023, that 17 case files related to the iron sheets scandal had been closed due to insufficient evidence.

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