Lawyers representing social media commentator Frank Gashumba and his brother, Innocent Kasumba, yesterday filed an application in Nakawa chief magistrate’s court asking for their unconditional release.
Since Monday, the two, have at various times, been held at either the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) in Mbuya or the Special Investigations Division (SID) in Kireka on fraud allegations.
An army spokesman yesterday revealed that the civilians are no longer with them. It is, however, not clear exactly when they were transferred to police custody, having been arrested by the military.
Military intelligence arrested Gashumba, a loud and regular critic of the president and his government, on suspicion that he impersonated the permanent secretary, ministry of defence. It is alleged that he was part of a scheme to obtain money by false pretense.
But in his affidavit sworn yesterday, Denis Nyombi, the duo’s lawyer, contends that their detention by the army and the police is “unlawful and unconstitutional”. The lawyer also contends that his clients have not been produced before court “within the constitutionally prescribed time.”
Nyombi cites Article 23 of the constitution which stipulates that any person arrested “must be brought to court as soon as possible but in any case not later than forty-eight hours from the time of his or her arrest”.
Gashumba is also the chief executive officer at Sisimuka Uganda, a non-profit organisation. He was arrested on October 30, while Kasumba was picked up a day later.
The army, through CMI, claimed that they had recovered two passports with Gashumba’s image but the travel documents bore different names.
One had the name Frank Disans Sentongo, while the other had Franco Gashumba Malingumu. The army also claimed that at Gashumba’s house in Bunga they found various stamps, including one of the defence ministry.
But in the application now before Nakawa Grade one magistrate Jackline Kagoya, Nyombi says the two must be released since they were denied their right to interact with their family members and lawyers. Nyombi said that on November 1, he unsuccessfully tried to interact with his clients.
“I went to one police department but they referred me to another department,” Nyombi says in the affidavit. “The duo were also denied police bond without any reason and yet no charges had been preferred against them,” Nyombi says in his affidavit.
Despite Nyombi’s efforts to have the application heard, Kagoya insisted she was busy and deferred the matter to today (Friday).
Army spokesman Brigadier Richard Karemire yesterday said the army, which has taken a lead role in the investigations, has handed over the two to police.
“We don’t have them,” Karemire said, “Please find out from the police.”
Police Asan Kasingye spokesperson confirmed the suspects’ transfer to their custody.
“We have them; there is no dispute about that,” Kasingye said. “We have made it very clear in our communications.”
Kasingye added: “We are still waiting for the DPP to prefer charges against them. That’s the only way we can bring them to court.”
With state attorneys staying away from work in their ongoing pay dispute with the government, it is unclear when the Gashumbas’ matter will be processed for court.
With the army also claiming to have found narcotics at Gashumba’s house, it remains unknown what charges could be leveled against him.