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Court of Appeal blocks corruption trial against ex-minister Kitutu

Mary Goretti Kitutu

Mary Goretti Kitutu

The Court of Appeal has halted criminal proceedings against the embattled former Karamoja minister Mary Gorreti Kitutu in the Anti-Corruption court.

Kitutu who was recently dropped from cabinet is accused of causing the government a financial loss of Shs 1.5 billion meant for peace-building activities in the Karamoja sub-region.

However, the proceedings have been halted in a ruling delivered by justice Oscar Kihika who sat as a single judge of the appellate court. Kihika ruled that he is convinced that Kitutu is most likely to suffer irreparable damages if the case proceeds when there is a pending appeal challenging the legality of the charges levied against her.

The ruling arises from an application in which Kitutu appealed the judgement of Anti-Corruption High court judge Jane Okuo Kajuga who declined to dismiss the charges on grounds that Kitutu had been tortured while in state custody. She also declined to halt proceedings in the Chief Magistrate's court where Kitutu is accused of causing financial loss, saying the case had no nexus/connection to the iron sheets scandal therefore it was a rising from a different set of investigations, not for iron sheets.

Following the rulings, Kitutu, through her lawyers led by Jude Byamukama appealed to the Court of Appeal saying she was aggrieved by the decision failing to stop the Inspector General of Government (IGG) Beti Olive Namisango Kamya from instituting parallel and additional criminal proceedings against her. 

Kitutu argued that the proceedings were arising from one broad investigation concerning the alleged mismanagement of a supplementary budget for Karamoja sub-region in the financial year 2021/2022. Kihika was told that the charges preferred against Kitutu by the IGG violate her right to a fair trial as they arise out of the same broad investigation that led to the charges against her in the iron sheets case.  

She said her appeal has a high likelihood of success and it is unjust for the criminal proceedings in the Shs 1.5 billion loss to commence against her as it had been scheduled on February 29, 2024, before the appeal is conclusively determined. She further pleaded that her appeal would be rendered nugatory if the criminal proceedings instituted by the IGG were not stayed pending the determination of the appeal.  

The IGG opposed the case saying, the offences with which Kitutu is charged were not committed in the course of the same transaction with iron sheets case and are quite different. She argued that the appeal was incompetent and that even the trial court found that there was no connection between the acts that constitute the transactions in the alleged diversion of iron sheets and the charges in the Shs 1.5 billion loss case. She sought dismissal of the application accordingly.  

In his ruling dated March 28, Kihika said that the right to a fair hearing in Article 28 of the Constitution is an inalienable right that ought to be strictly observed adding that whether the right was violated is still a matter not yet determined.

“If the second trial were to proceed before determining whether or not the applicant’s right to a fair hearing was infringed upon, would in my view be prejudicial to the applicant who would suffer immeasurable damage on account of being subjected to proceedings that could affect her right to a fair hearing. I therefore find that the applicant has satisfied this court that she will suffer irreparable damage if this application is not granted," said Kihika.  

He added that an order for a stay of the criminal proceedings against Kitutu at the Chief Magistrate's court (anti-corruption division) is issued until the disposal of the civil appeal pending before the court.  

The charges were amended, and Kitutu remained the only suspect on the charge sheet. She had previously been charged with Geoffrey Sseremba, Deogratius Masagazi, and Tracy Atuhirwe, all officials from the Office of the Prime Minister. But they were set free on March 19, 2024, by the court presided over by acting senior principal grade one magistrate Abert Asiimwe after the IGG withdrew charges against them.

The IGG claims that between February and June 2022, while serving as minister for Karamoja Affairs, Kitutu failed to conduct various peace-building activities in the Karamoja sub-region, resulting in a financial loss of Shs 1.5 billion to the government.

Comments

+2 #1 Wadada Rogers 2024-04-01 14:01
Its a pity this woman is still packaging herself as if she is innocent
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