The judge presiding over the treason trial of Uganda opposition leader Kizza Besigye and 22 others has withdrawn from the case. Justice John Bosco Katutsi cited what he calls “irresponsible talk” that he was favoring Besigye. It was Justice Katutsi who on January 2nd ordered Besigye’s release from prison. He also ruled a week ago that Besigye’s trial in a military court was illegal.
Justice Katutsi’s resignation comes on the heels of comments by the coordinator of Uganda’s security agencies that judges were favoring terrorists instead of helping the government fight terror. So did the government pressure Justice Katutsi to withdraw from the Besigye treason trial? Voice of America reporter James Butty put that question to Nsaba Buturo, Uganda’s minister of information.
“Certainly we did not, and those comments were made by private citizens. They do not reflect government’s position. He did resign, in our view, because of the reasons he gave, which were mainly medical. It is true there has been loose talk from people here and there. But a seasoned judge like Justice Katutsi would not have gone by those comments. Clearly, our concern is that the trial should proceed, and who does this and that is not really our business.”
As for who is exerting pressure on the courts, Uganda’s minister of information said: “If there’s anybody who is intimidating the courts of law, it is Dr. Besigye." The minister added that Dr. Besigye is in effect saying that any judge who disagrees with him has probably been bribed.