The Director of Public Prosecutions Jane Frances Abodo has withdrawn murder charges against Alex Twinomugisha, who has been on remand for more than 22 years without trial.
The charges were withdrawn at Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court on Thursday by Dr. Douglas Singiza the Chief Magistrate. The case had come up for the second time in court since April 14, 2000.
State Attorney Joan Keko tendered in court a withdrawal form dated February 23 2022 written by the DPP Abodo withdrawing the charge against Twinomugisha.
Twinomugisha’s lawyer Geoffrey Turyamusiima had no objection to the withdrawal save for informing the court that he had not been served with a copy of the withdrawal letter.
The Chief Magistrate was left with no option but to set Twinomugisha free unless held for other lawful charges.
When asked Twinomugisha’s lawyer Turyamusiima about who exactly his client had reportedly murdered, he indicated that it occurred at Makerere University but the file went missing for 22 years between Wandegeya Police and the office of the DPP and therefore they don’t know the particulars of the case.
The Constitution of Uganda gives powers to the DPP to withdraw charges against any suspect without giving reasons for its decision.
The withdrawal of charges came hours before the hearing of a case that Twinomugisha had filed before the High Court Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana seeking to be released on grounds that his rights were being violated because of his continued stay on remand without trial.
According to his application in the High Court, the 50-year-old Twinomugisha contends that he was convicted to suffer death together with the former Tooro Kingdom Prime Minister, John Katuramu on September 12 2001 for the murder of Tooro Kingdom Prince Happy Kijanangoma.
However, the Supreme Court quashed his sentence following an appeal by Susan Kigula challenging the mandatory death sentence. As result, the Supreme court remitted his death sentence to 20 years in prison.
Twinomugishacontends that prior to his sentence, the Directorate of Public Prosecution charged him with another murder case on April 14, 2000, whose details are scanty.
He completed the 20-year-jail term on September 12t 2021 and his co-accused like Katuramu were released leaving him in prison.
He told Court that he was left in prison on grounds that the first file on which he was charged before Kijanangoma’s murder is non-existent both at Buganda Road Magistrates Court and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In his High Court application, Twinomugisha had indicated that he wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions, State Attorneys in Law Development Centre, Buganda Road Magistrate’s Courts, and police to have the charges dropped in vain. He says that the regional DPP office instead wrote to the State Attorney in the LDC and OC CID Wandegeya directing them to trace the file in their archives and forward it to her for determination within two weeks.
“The Divisional Criminal Investigations Department at Wandegeya responded in writing to the Director CID at CID headquarters whom he claimed in his letter dated October 29, 2021, to have taken over the case in 1999”, reads Twinomugisha’s affidavit in part.
He wanted the High Court to declare that the delay to try him for 22 years is unconstitutional, null, and void, and accordingly award him compensation for the damages and set him free.
However, in the previous session, the Civil Division Judge Ssekaana had tasked the government to come up with a clear explanation as to why Twinomugisha had remained on remand for all that long or else he was to release him.