Minister Kitutu loses bid to block trial in iron sheets case

Kampala, (UG): The Anti-Corruption Court has rejected a plea by Karamoja Affairs Minister, Dr Mary Gorreti Kitutu in which she sought to challenge her trial in the iron sheets scandal on grounds of alleged torture.

Lady Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga, presiding over the court on Tuesday, dismissed Kitutu’s application, stating it lacked substantial evidence and contained falsehoods, as per consistent statements from police officers that the Minister was not subjected to any form of torture or coercion.

Kitutu, along with her brother Michael Naboya Kitutu and personal assistant Joshua Abaho, face charges of diverting over 10,000 prepainted iron sheets from the Karamoja Community Empowerment Program.

In response to her arraignment, Kitutu alleged torture during her time in police custody. She detailed an incident where the Prime Minister summoned her to meet the CID Director but she was instead arrested and interrogated by multiple officers. She claimed denial of legal representation.

She further accused authorities of denying her food and water, subjecting her to various forms of torture, including blindfolding and a night-time search for iron sheets in Kayunga district.

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Kitutu also alleged a targeted media campaign against her, that portrayed her negatively and hindered her a fair trial.

She had requested the court to dismiss the charges against her based on these claims.

However, the court, represented by State Attorney Johnson Natuhwera and DPP’s Jonathan Muwaganya, dismissed Kitutu’s claims by presenting police officers as witnesses with a different narrative of the claimed incidents.

Lady Justice Kajuga ruled that she had found there was no substantiation of abuse or portrayal of guilt in the media, maintaining that as a Minister overseeing Karamoja, her involvement in investigations was anticipated and legitimate.

While acknowledging media reporting’s importance, Kajuga directed investigative authorities to refrain from conducting investigations through media channels. “She was not singled out nor is there any report that says she is guilty.

“The media cannot be gagged from reporting matters of public concern fairly,” said Kajuga. She concluded that Kitutu’s claims lacked credibility, dismissing the allegations of torture and rights violations during the investigations.

“In light of the foregoing, I dismiss the applicant’s claims that she was intentionally forced to sit on a stool the whole night as an act of torture for the purposes specified in the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act,” said Kajuga.

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This decision will see Kitutu’s case proceed to trial, as it was previously halted pending the ruling on her torture claims.

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