By Shafic Sazi
The Court of Appeal in Kampala has overturned the life sentence handed over to Sheikh Yunus Kamoga by the war crimes division of the High Court.
The Tabliq community leader and Amir Sheikh Umar Mohammed Yunus Kamoga and 5 others who had been sentenced to life and 30 years imprisonment respectively in August 2017, are now free men after the Court of Appeal overturned their conviction for lack of evidence to incriminate them.
The court in 2017 sentenced Kamoga, his brother Sheikh Murta Mudde Bukenya, Sheikh Kawooya and Sheikh Fahad Kalungi to life in prison whereas Yusuf Kakande and Abdulsalam Sekyanja were sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted of terrorism.
The group was however acquitted of murder charges that had been labelled against them for the killing of various Muslim clerics throughout the country.
They however appealed against the life imprisonment sentence against them basing on conviction for terrorism using the same evidence that had earlier seen the same court acquit them of murder charges.
On Wednesday, three justices including Alphonse Owiny- Dollo, Cheborion Barishaki and Elizabeth Musoke ruled that ingredients of terrorism had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt by the lower court and therefore, it was wrong to have the group convicted of the same charge of terrorism.
“Acts of terrorism can also be covered by other offences under the law but under the relevant act, the acts of terrorism must have the character of indiscriminateness in effect and manner of execution. As has been expounded above, there was no such indiscriminateness in the instant case,” the judges ruled.
In its conviction, the lower court said that the actions of the group were indiscriminate as they targeted very many people but the justice of the Court of Appeal said this was never proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The judges ruled that none of the prosecution witnesses attended the said meetings where plans to carry out the attacks were made adding that claims that Yusuf Kakande carried a flyer with threats to kill Sheikhs Mustafa Bahiga, Hassan Kirya and Najib Ssonko was not substantiated.
“All in all, the convictions of all the appellants for the offence of Terrorism contrary to section 7(1) and (2) (b) of the Anti-Terrorism Act ,2002 are quashed for the reasons given herein above. The sentences imposed on the appellants arising from their respective convictions are also set aside,” the court ruled.
The latest development means Sheikh Yunus Kamoga and the group have been set free by court.
Defense Lawyers and relatives to the freed Muslims welcomed the court ruling and said they will wait for instructions from their clients on whether to sue the state for malicious prosecution.