KAMPALA, (UG): The Anti Corruption Court has halted the trial in which Karamoja Affairs Minister Mary Gorreti Kitutu Kimono is accused of causing loss of public property after her alleged involvement in the diversion of iron sheets meant for the northern subregion.
Kitutu is jointly charged with her brother Michael Naboya Kitutu and her Personal Assistant Joshua Abaho.
On Friday, High Court Lady Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga halted the trial pending the determination of an application in which Kitutu is challenging the trial on grounds of torture and several human rights violations inflicted on her while inside police custody.
The Prosecution alleges that between the month of June 2022 and January 2023 at the office of the Prime Minister’s Stores, Namanve, Mukono District, Kitutu caused the loss of public property in the form of 9,000 prepainted Iron sheets of Gauge 28 by diverting them from the intended purpose of benefiting the Karamoja Community Empowerment Program to her own benefit and to the benefit of third parties having reason to believe that such act would lead into loss of the said property.
It is also alleged that while at the same place, in January 2023, Kitutu and her Personal Assistant Abaho diverted 5,500 iron sheets for unrelated purposes and they ended up being received by third parties yet he was charged with the duty of keeping them in good and safe custody as the receiver.
According to the prosecution, Kitutu’s brother Naboya received 100 pieces of iron sheets while in Namisindwa district which was part of those that the Minister and Abaho had connived to divert.
However, Kitutu in an application suing the Attorney General, says that on April 3rd, 2023, she received a phone call from the Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja directing her to meet the CID Director Tom Magambo to avoid the embarrassment of being arrested forcefully.
According to Kitutu, upon reaching the CID Kibuli, she was immediately arrested and interrogated by nine police officers who confiscated her phones, and the next day, she was driven to the Parliamentary Committee on Presidential Affairs where she was forced to take oath despite having denied an opportunity to instruct her lawyers.
Kitutu says she was kept in police custody for three days without being given food and water despite asking for it and subjected to all forms of torture including blindfolding her and driving her to Kayunga District at night looking for the iron sheets. She says that such actions were meant to force her to confess to crimes she had not committed.
According to Kitutu, throughout all this, the agents of the government to which she is a Minister have a targeted media campaign against her and have made prejudicial statements in the press and social media platforms through selective and malicious publications in the New Vision.
Kitutu contends that the actions of the state agents were calculated to deny her a fair hearing and to cast her as a villain in the public domain and as such, her rights were violated irreparably and gravely compromised.
She further argues that the process leading to her arrest by the Uganda Police Force, the interrogation by the Parliamentary Presidential Affairs Committee, and other state institutions subjected her to torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment during the course of investigations against her.
Kitutu says that the entire process was tainted with gross abuse of her non-derogable rights and the DPP has also additionally violated her right after denial of disclosure of exhibits and documents they intend to rely on to prosecute her.
She now wants the charges against her dismissed on that basis.
Kitutu’s lawyers led by Jude Byamukama asked the court to halt the trial pending the determination of this application filed against the Attorney General.
The Prosecution led by State Attorney Jonathan Muwaganya asked the court to dismiss the application on grounds that for the High Court to stay proceedings, the question of violation of fundamental human rights should have been raised in the course of the proceedings before the Court.
Muwaganya has indicated that there is a substantive application filed meaning whatever is being raised is being raised through a distinct application and it is not being raised in the course of these proceedings.
He added that the application is not yet fixed and it is not even clear which court will hear and determine the same, yet it is also a civil matter filed against the Attorney General, and Friday’s proceeding is a criminal matter and there is no way how a stay should be granted.
In her ruling, the court halted the trial saying she is aware of Kitutu’s application and that since she raised issues of fundamental human rights, they should be attended to first.
She said that if the question of human rights is raised, the court is expected to take action.
Justice Kajuga also disagreed that it has not been adduced before the course of proceedings within her court.
She fixed the application for hearing on September 19th, 2023 with orders that the main case will continue coming for mention until the application is determined.
The hearing of the main case has been fixed for September 14th, 2023.