Makindye court orders release of Kakwenza

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija is in custody. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | 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 picked up by security late last year, and did not appear in court today as the Criminal Investigations Department had promised earlier.

CID Spokesperson  Charles Twiine had on Monday said he will be arraigned in Court today on a charge of offensive communication for allegedly insulting President Yoweri Museveni and First son and Army Commander Muhoozi Kainerugaba on Twitter.

Yesterday, a search was done of his home in Iganga, according to his lawyer  Eron Kiiza. His said on twitter that his client had been “Clearly tortured. He needs urgent medication and counseling”.

Earlier, lawyers representing the novelist petitioned the Makindye Magistrates Court over his continued detention.

Kakwenza was picked up from his home at Rave Apartments in Kisaasi over a week ago by armed security personnel.

Through his lawyers of Kiiza and Mugisha Advocates, they contend that Kakwenza has been detained at an unknown facility and that Uganda Police Force that are detaining him refused to disclose yet his file is being managed at the Cyber Crimes Unit of Police in Kibuli.

His lawyer Morgan Muhindo says 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.

Lawyer Eron Kiiza says that they want Court to order the government to unconditionally release Kakwenza.

Earlier Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga said that the cybercrime department is investigating Kakwenza for offensive communication.

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.

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