Uganda: Sheikh Kamoga, 13 Others Choose Silence

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The leader of the Tabliq Sect Sheikh Yunus Kamoga and 13 other accused persons yesterday chose the option of remaining silent as a form of their defence to rebut the allegations of being behind the wave of killings of rival Muslim clerics about two years ago.

“My lords, we had a discussion with my clients/ accused persons about their rights at this stage and they have decided to remain silent… ” Counsel Fred Muwema, one of the lead defense lawyers in this case, told the International Crimes Division of the High Court yesterday.

In criminal law, the accused person/s once court establishes that he/she has a case to answer, they have three options to defend themselves.

The first option is to give their defense on oath with their respective lawyers guiding them and the state prosecutors cross examining them.

The second option is to give their defense not on oath, meaning that their defense lawyers won’t guide them and the State prosecutors will also not ask them any questions.

The last option is to just keep quiet and equally no questions will be asked, an option that all the 14 accused persons chose yesterday.

 Explaining the implication of remaining silent, human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi said court will now have to rely on the evidence of the prosecution that is on record to reach its finding of either “a guilty verdict” or “not guilty verdict”.

Mr Rwakafuuzi explained that if the evidence on record is sufficient enough, then court can convict them but if it’s weak, then they will be acquitted.

In further explaining this option, Mr Rwakafuuzi said sometimes it’s wise for the accused person/s to remain silent because putting a defence could strengthen the prosecution’s weak case instead.

 “When the court ruled that there is a prema-facie case against them, it meant that there was something or an allegation that needed to be explained by them.

However, if an accused person thinks the prosecution has not made out a case against them, it’s better to remain silent or else you may strengthen the prosecution’s case in attempting to defend yourself,” counsel Rwakafuuzi said.

 This is not the first high profile case that a suspect/s chooses to remain silence and in the end court acquits them.

About seven years ago, the Mufti of Uganda Shaban Mubajje, city businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba and Dr Edris Kasenene had been accused of fraudulent disposal of Muslim properties, forgery and conspiracy to commit an offence. They choose to remain silent and then Buganda Road Court Chief Magistrate Margaret Tibulya acquitted them.

It’s alleged that the 14 accused masterminded the coordinated assassinations of rival Muslim leaders resulting into the killing of Mustafa Bahiga who was gunned down at Bwebajja Mosque and Sheikh Hassan Kirya, who was gunned down at Bweyogerere, Wakiso District.

They face grave charges ranging from murder, terrorism, crimes against humanity to attempted murder.

The accused

The other accused persons charged alongside Sheikh Kamoga include; Sheikh Siraje Kawooya, Abdulsalam, Abdulhamid Sematimba, Rashid Jingo, Twaha Sekkitto, Yusuf Kakande alias Abdallah, Sheikh Murta Mudde Bukenya, Kakim Kinene Muswaswa, Muzamilu Kasawuli, Arafa Serunjoji alias Bukenya, Badru Bukenya, Alex Okot, Joseph Olanya, and Amir Kenene.

By Anthony Wesaka, Juliet Kigongo and Mercy Naleba

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