Lawyers petition court seeking unconditional release of Alternative Digitalk journalists

Alternative Digitalk journalists. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A group of lawyers have filed an application before the Nakawa Chief Magistrates Court demanding for the unconditional release of nine presenters of an online television, the Alternative Digitalk who were arrested four days ago.

The nine are: Norman Tumuhimbise, Arnold Mukose, Faridah Bikobere, Jeremiah Mukiibi, Kato Tumusiime, Lillian Luwedde, Teangel Nabukeera, Rogers Turyahabwe and Jeje Wabyona.

In the application, the lawyers comprised of Eron Kiiza, Nalukoola Luyimbazi, Samuel Wanda and Michael Aboneka say that their clients were arrested on March 10th, 2022 at around 3pm by a mean looking joint security team of police officers and military police officers who were armed with guns.

The presenters were reportedly picked from their office at Kintu Zone, Lukuli Parish in Makindye division and arrested by the joint security agencies .

According to the lawyers, the security team searched the premises of the media house and confiscated media equipment including cameras, media van, phones, personal computers, laptops, books, hard disks, external hard drives, recorders, CDs among other journalistic equipment.

The records submitted to court on Monday afternoon indicate that detective Assistant Inspector of Police George Ndyanabangi reportedly conducted the search where the said items were seized.

These lawyers add that the presenters were later bundled up in a numberless mini bus vehicle and taken to Special Investigations Division of police in Kireka where they are being detained incommunicado and cannot be accessed by their lawyers, family or relatives which is unconstitutional.

According to the lawyers, the right to personal liberty of their clients has been violated for having been detained for more than the mandatory 48 hours without being produced in court to read for them the charges as to why they are being detained.

“Since their arrest, the applicants have been detained incommunicado at Kireka Special Investigations Division in defiance of the Constitution and other laws of Uganda for over 48 hours. The applicant’s decision is illegal,” reads the affidavit by Innocent Ainebyona who says he is a friend to all the applicants and a brother to Tumuhimbise.

Ainebyona adds that the search at the office of the applicants was done illegally without a warrant and therefore, in the interest of justice, he wants all of them to be released unconditionally to avoid further infringement on their constitutional rights.

The Nakawa Court has fixed the case where the Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka, the Inspector General of Police  Martin Okoth Ochola, and the Commandant of Special Investigations Division-SID Kireka, Francis Olugu are the only respondents for hearing on March 16th 2022.

The arrest of the group came barely a week after their leader Tumuhimbise issued notices on social media platforms announcing launch of a book titled “The Komanyoko Politics, Liars and Accomplices and Unsowing the Mustard Seed.”

The launch was expected to take place at the end of this month at Imperial Royale Hotel.

Tumuhimbise’s arrest came a month after another writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was detained in an unknown place and produced at Buganda Road Court on charges of offensive communication where he appeared with torture marks on his body. Kakwenza has since fled the country to Germany.

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