Acquitted Kirumira murder suspect still missing a week after kidnap

Hamza Mwebe (L) at court earlier

Acquitted murder suspect Hamza Mwebe is still missing more than a week after he was kidnapped from the High court premises.

Mwebe was on Friday, December 23, 2022, acquitted of the murder of former assistant superintendent of police (ASP) Muhammad Kirumira and his friend Resty Nalinya after the prosecution failed to adduce evidence before court connecting him to the September 2018 murders.

He was henceforth set free by justice Margaret Mutonyi but was immediately whisked away by suspected plain-clothed security operatives driving in a minibus alias drone. At that time, his lawyer Zefania Zimbe said that one of the men who grabbed his client asked him not to worry, saying that they were taking him to the neighbouring Kampala central police station (CPS) along Buganda road.

Zimbe however says since that time they are still searching for Mwebe’s whereabouts after failing to get him at Kampala CPS.

“At CPS we were told he’s not there,” said Zimbe.

Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said that Mwebe is not in any of their cells and would need to find out from their sister agencies to ascertain if they are the ones holding him.   

The Police Act mandates the police to make arrests, and if they are to detain, do so for a period not exceeding 48 hours. However, it is not uncommon for the army and unidentified security operatives to arrest and keep civilians in military custody sometimes until court orders that the suspects are produced dead or alive. 

Defense ministry spokesperson Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye said that Mwebe isn’t in army custody. This is not the first time court has set free suspects, either temporarily on bail or permanently upon acquittal and they are immediately re-arrested.

In November 2017, Ahmed Senfuka, one of the seven people suspected of the murder of assistant inspector general of police (AIGP) Andrew Felix Kaweesi was brutally re-arrested shortly after being released by the Nakawa grade one magistrate Noah Sajjabi. In 2019, another group of four suspects in the same murder case was re-arrested from court premises shortly after being released by justice Lydia Mugambe. 

In 2016, High court judge, now chief justice Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo acquitted five men who were part of the 13 suspects charged with offences related to the Kampala twin bombings at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds and Ethiopian Village restaurant, Kabalagala during the 2010 World Cup finals between Netherlands and Spain in South Africa.

The police first kept the suspects, saying that they couldn’t immediately release them for fear of their own safety for they would be attacked by families of the bomb victims who might be discontent with the ruling. Barely a week later, they were charged before the Chief Magistrate’s court in Jinja district on fresh allegations of terrorism.

The same happened in November 2010 when the court acquitted 18 suspects charged with taking part in the same twin bombings after the prosecution told the court that their investigations found that they were not involved in the attack. Three acquitted suspects namely Christopher Baturaine, Issa Ali Senkumba, and Abdulahi Muhamed were re-arrested immediately and taken to an undisclosed location.

Source: The Observer

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