Uganda: Nandutu runs to Constitutional court to halt Karamoja iron sheets trial

Uganda: Nandutu runs to Constitutional court to halt Karamoja iron sheets trial

Minister Agnes Nandutu in the dock

Written by URN

The state minister for Karamoja Affairs Agnes Nandutu has petitioned the Constitutional court to halt her trial in the Anti-Corruption court.

Nandutu is battling charges of dealing with suspect property in the infamous Karamoja iron sheet scandal at the Office of Prime Minister (OPM). Nandutu’s lawyers led by criminal lawyer, Caleb Alaka asked the Anti-Corruption court presided over by lady justice Jane Okuo Kajuga to halt the trial which had been scheduled to start on Thursday.

They want the case file sent to the Constitutional court for its interpretation on whether the charges against Nandutu won’t infringe on her right to a fair hearing. Prosecution alleges that during the month of June 2022 at the OPM stores in Namanve, Mukono district, Nandutu dealt with government property and irregularly received 2,000 pre-painted iron sheets.

According to the prosecution, Nandutu had reason to believe the iron sheets were acquired as a result of loss of public property an offense under section 10 of the Anti Corruption Act of 2000 as amended. But on Thursday when the matter came up for hearing, Alaka said that they cannot proceed with the hearing because the charges against his client are imprecise, ambiguous, vehemently vague, and broad in nature, and as such her right to a fair hearing will be infringed.

He noted that the charges against Nandutu are not clear as it is supposed to be in law. He argued that the charge sheet does not specify one offense of dealing with suspect property and that in the particulars of the offense, the prosecution seems to introduce another charge of causing loss of public property. 

Alaka added that for one to be charged with dealing with suspect property, one should have been already convicted under the offense in the Anti-Corruption Act. The defense team is of the view that the offense of suspect property is only restricted to persons who are found in possession or conceal information about such property and in this case, such doesn’t apply to Nandutu. 

According to Alaka, they have also filed a constitutional petition seeking the interpretation of the offense of Section 21A of the Anti-Corruption Act where Nandutu is being charged.

In their petition, they are seeking a declaration that the provision of the law under which Nandutu is charged is unconstitutional because of being imprecise and does not guarantee a fair hearing as guaranteed under the constitution. They also want the acts of police and DPP charging her under that said law to be declared unconstitutional.

They asked the Anti-Corruption court to halt the trial and make a reference to the question raised over the ambiguity of the provision under which Nandutu was charged for interpretation by the Constitutional court, which, at the same time, will determine their petition which was filed on Wednesday.

Prosecution led by Jonathan Muwaganya and David Bisamunyu opposed the halting of the trial, saying the charges against her are clear and therefore there is no question that requires constitutional interpretation. Bisamunyu said that the defense side was on what he described as “a fishing expedition” because it cannot file a constitutional petition and also apply for a reference by another court.

He said they are trying to see which one will be faster, and they are as such, wasting the court’s time and their actions violate the right to a fair and speedy hearing. According to the prosecution, they came ready with witnesses to testify against Nandutu and the tactic of asking for a reference is a delayed tactic. 

The prosecution has therefore asked court to dismiss Nandutu’s application with costs and to proceed with the trial. Lady justice Kajuga has now fixed May 29 to deliver her ruling on the matter. Nandutu who was granted bail a few weeks ago has had her bail extended until then. Culled from Daily Observer.

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