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Stella Nyanzi loses bid to block her trial of insulting Museveni

Jailed Makerere University Research Fellow Dr Stella Nyanzi appears in court for the hearing of his case in which she sued the university seeking payment of her wages as per orders of the Staff Appeals Tribunal about three months ago. Photo by Juliet Kigongo

Makerere University research fellow Dr Stella Nyanzi has lost the bid to block her trial in which she is accused of harassing President Museveni when she allegedly insulted his late mother on her Facebook page.

Dr Nyanzi is charged with two counts which are cyber harassment and offensive communication.

Last month Dr Nyanzi through her lawyer, Mr Isaac Ssemakadde sought court to block the case on ground that the charges are a duplicate of each other and they cannot independently stand on their own.

Mr Ssemakadde argued that the essential ingredients are missing in each count which renders the charge sheet defective beyond repair before calling upon court to discontinue the proceeding and set his client free.

However, the Resident State Attorney, Ms Janat Kitimbo, objected to the defence lawyer’s assertion stating that the law does not require putting up of different description or interpretation in each charge as the defence suggests.

She said if court is to go by what defence wants, then it will mean that there is need to amend some sections of the Magistrate Court Act (MCA).

Ms Kitimbo further argued that the defence submission that the charge sheet in its current state is not amendable is wrong. She emphasized that section of the MCA allow amendments at any point of the trail.

In a ruling made at Buganda Road Court Chief Magistrate’s Court, Ms Gladys Kamasanyu, held that she carefully considered both defence and state submissions linking them to provisions of the law and found that the preliminary objections by the defence counsel of injustice on his client instigated by the charge sheet was totally misconceived.

Ms Kamasanyu noted that the law provides that the offences of the charge sheet must be described lightly avoiding all technical terms which are hard for the accused person to understand.

“In the instant case the words from Dr Nyanzi’s Facebook post where included in the particulars of the offence and that they were duly explained to the accused person in a language that she understands before she took plea,” Ms Kamasanyu said.

“… Sections of the MCA on rules for framing of charges provides that after statement of the particulars they should be set out in a simple language that describes the offence in an ordinary language indicating the place and time the offence was committed,” she explained.

Adding that the words used in the charge sheet do not in any way accord any injustice to the accused person as they are necessary information about both counts.

Prosecution contends that on September 16, 2018, Dr Nyanzi posted on her Facebook page suggestions deemed obscene against the President’s deceased mother.

It is stated that she also repeatedly posted messages to disturb or attempted to disturb the peace, quiet or right to privacy of the President. This is the second time police are arresting Dr Nyanzi on allegations of abusing President Museveni and his family.

According to Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 on offensive communication, “Any person who willfully and repeatedly uses electronic communication to disturb or attempts to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication whether or not a conversation ensues commits a misdemeanor and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-four currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.”

Twenty four currency points is an equivalent of Shs480, 000.

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