Four Ugandan soldiers accused of subversive activities, including plotting to overthrow President Yoweri Museveni’s government, are unlikely to receive a fair trial, according to their attorney, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi.
The court has scheduled October 18 as the trial date of the accused.
“These young men were refused bail and the court reasoned that they are charged with the offense of rebellion and that if they are released they will join the rebellion. That amounts to prejudging the case,” said Rwakafuuzi. “I thought the court will be there to be a neutral party to the defense of these young men. We are still looking at a strategy of whether we can continue in that court or not.”
The four accused soldiers have been in detention since May 5.
Rwakafuuzi says the court’s rationale for denying his clients bail undermines the principle of “innocence until proven guilty.”
The government contends that James Karuhanga Nayebale, Moses Nuwagaba Kakarugahi, Abel Twinamasiko and Frank Ninsiima conspired with others to overthrow the government. If convicted, they could be sentenced to death.
The accused worked in the office of Uganda’s renegade army General David Sejusa, who was coordinator for Uganda’s intelligence agencies at the president’s office.
The prosecution says the soldiers were part of a plot to overthrow the government.
“As serving officers they were supposed to report to the army leadership acts of subversion but they did not and actually took part,” said Colonel Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF).
Rwakafuuzi says the charges against his clients are politically motivated.
“These are political charges because they have no proof backing them. Sejusa himself has not said that he is going to overthrow this government by force of arms,” said Rwakafuuzi. “He has only expressed the desire that there should be a regime change within the constitutional means. So to say that these people are guilty of subversion I think is very unfair and is very wrong.”
General Sejusa is in exile and has refused to return to Uganda from exile. Sejusa had called on the government to investigate rumors of a plot to assassinate administration officials who opposed to a reported plan for President Museveni to line up his own successor as president. The government has denied that any such plan exists.
“This is political harassment because since Sejusa is not here, they have to harass his people,” said Rwakafuuzi. “I don’t think it was unlawful to work with Sejusa and I think even the president worked with [Sejusa] and he has not been charged with treason.”