Iron Sheets Scandal: Court okays Minister Kitutu to travel abroad

FILE PHOTO: Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu while in court

Kampala, (UG): The High Court in Kampala has granted permission to the Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Dr Mary Gorreti Kitutu to travel to the United Kingdom and Dubai.

The Anti-Corruption Court Judge Lady Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga on Friday allowed Kitutu to travel following her partly successful application seeking to vary her bail terms imposed on her when she was granted bail on charges of abuse of office.

She is jointly charged with her brother, Michael Naboya Kitutu, and her Personal Assistant Joshua Abaho who are all out on bail.

However, last week Kitutu through her lawyer Jude Byamukama, told Justice Kajuga that her right to free movement cannot be restricted because she is still presumed innocent.

She argued that as a Minister for Karamoja Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), she is required to attend high-level meetings and conferences both within and outside Uganda on behalf of the Government of Uganda.

Records show that Kitutu has been formally invited and cleared by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja to travel to London, United Kingdom for 13 days to attend the 10th anniversary of Inzu Yamasaba UK from November 23 to December 5, 2023.

Byamukama told the court that Kitutu would not abscond from the trial because she had already demonstrated her commitment to this criminal matter by attending all previous court hearing sessions. The court also heard that Kitutu is married, has parliamentary responsibilities of serving and representing the people of Manafwa as their Woman MP, and possesses sureties that will ensure that she doesn’t abscond from court obligations.

However, in response, the prosecution led by State Attorney Jonathan Muwaganya asked the court to dismiss the application, saying that Kitutu’s absence would likely cause technical difficulties in the determination of her application seeking to enforce her human rights.

Besides this, Muwaganya said her absence will also cause undue delay to the criminal case which has two other accused persons who have a right to a fair and expeditious trial.

Muwaganya was relying on an affidavit by Sarafina Bireke, a Senior State Attorney in the office of the director of public prosecutions (DPP) who says that Kitutu going for travels is personal in nature and not a matter of necessity.

In her ruling, Kajuga said although the lower court did not order Kitutu to deposit her passport in court nor impose any restrictions on travel, both lawyers agreed that it is imperative that she should not travel out of the jurisdiction of the court without permission from the court.

Kajuga also said that she has looked at the letters inviting the Minister abroad and found that the invitation to one of the events in the United Kingdom is based on her roots as a Minister from the Bugisu region which she also represents as a Member of Parliament.

Justice Kajuga also said that the Minister has sought and secured clearance from the Prime Minister to travel for the event and records show that the government has facilitated her travel expenses for the same event, which the Judge said demonstrates an interest of the government of Uganda in Kitutu’s attendance.

Further, she considered the fact that Kitutu was nominated as a party delegate representing Uganda to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference from November 24 2023 to December 12 2023 in Dubai United Arab Emirates. According to the Judge, the nature of the event is clearly official.

“It is clear from the above letters that the applicant is invited to attend both functions in her official capacity. While it may not be clear as to how she plans to effectively juggle the two events, I find attendance of both possible “, said Kajuga.

She also dismissed the prosecution’s claims that the travel abroad would delay the trial saying the trial was stayed pending the determination of the application in which she is challenging it over torture and that she has been ably been attending court.

“I have considered the applicant’s attendance record since the criminal case started. She has attended each sitting of court as required. I am also satisfied that her actions are not steeped in bad faith considering that there was no legal impediment to external travel and she still thought it necessary to seek the consent of the court. I see no need to interfere with the right to travel for these events”, said Kajuga.

The Judge has however declined to give her permission to travel abroad anytime she wants and also varied her bail terms with an order that all her travels outside Uganda shall be made upon consent of the court.

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