The Makindye Magistrates Court has ordered the unconditional release of Novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija who has been in police custody for a week without trial.
The order was issued on Tuesday by the Grade One Magistrate Irene Nambatya following an application by Kakwenza’s lawyers Eron Kiiza, Nalukoola Luyimbazi, and Samuel Wanda demanding his unconditional release.
His lawyers argue that Kakwenza has been in unknown detention without being produced in court within the mandatory 48 hours which is a violation of his constitutional right to liberty and fair hearing.
But Kiiza says that they are not sure whether the government will comply with the release order or will opt to take him to court.
Kakwenza was arrested eight days ago from his home at Rave Apartments in Kisaasi by armed security personnel.
His lawyers on December 30 filed an application for his unconditional release arguing that Kakwenza has been detained at an unknown facility and that the Uganda Police Force that arrested him refused to disclose his whereabouts yet his file is being managed at the Cyber Crimes Unit of Police in Kibuli.
The application was supported by an affidavit from one of the lawyers Morgan Muhindo who told the court that Kakwenza has since been held incommunicado with his lawyers, family, and friends denied access which is a violation of his constitutional right to liberty and fair hearing.
On Monday, the CID Spokesperson Charles Twine said Kakwenza would be arraigned at Buganda Road Magistrates Court on charges related to offensive communication. But he has not yet been arraigned.
However, a security source who preferred anonymity said that Kakwenza will not be charged today because they are still gathering evidence to incriminate him on the charges they intend to levy against him.
The security agencies on Monday also went to Kakwenza’s home in Iganga district and conducted a search looking for materials that they think would be fundamental in prosecuting him.
However, Uganda Radio Network is yet to understand what exactly was discovered after the search which Kakwenza’s lawyers have since described as illegal for having been carried out without a search warrant as required by law.
In 2020, Kakwenza was arrested twice in a space of six months. He was first arrested on April 13 from his home in Iganga District allegedly by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence and detained in Mbuya. He was later charged with doing an act likely to spread an infectious disease following a post on his Facebook page related to COVID-19.
He was later granted bail but again arrested in September of the same year and his lawyers said it was in relation to his book titled “The Banana Republic”, in which he had written about his experience under CMI custody earlier.
He had also previously written a book titled “The Greedy Barbarian” in which he talked about a greedy and incompetent dictator Kayibanda who clings to power for 43 years.
In October 2021, Kakwenza was awarded as the Winner of International Writer of Courage at the PEN Pinter Prize function and this annual award is normally presented to a person who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs.
Kakwenza has since sued the government seeking compensation for infringement of his rights after he was illegally detained in 2020 where he was reportedly tortured and kept incommunicado. But his case is yet to be determined by the Civil Division of the High Court.