Lira Grade One Magistrate’s Court has issued warrant of arrest for the Uganda Peoples Congress president, Mr Olara Otunnu, after he failed to appear in court to answer sedition and sectarianism charges.
Prosecution led by Resident State Attorney, Immaculate Draru said Mr Otunnu was personally served with criminal sermons to appear in court yesterday but he did not. Mr Otunnu was represented in court by his lawyers Erias Lukwago and Moses Ojakol who argued that the provision under which Mr Otunnu is being charged is being challenged in the Constitutional Court.
Mr Lukwago said where a matter is still in a higher court, a lower court cannot proceed with the case until it is disposed of. He said it was erroneous for the State to sanction the case file and told the magistrate to send the application to the Constitutional Court for advice. But the resident state attorney said the case in the Constitutional Court has been pending since 2004. Before adjourning the case to the afternoon, the presiding magistrate, Faith Everest Palodi, said he should be given time to peruse through the law. “This case is against an individual who should come to court and answer,” he said. Later Magistrate Palodi announced that a warrant of arrest is issued for Mr Otunnu and he should be produced in court on August 17. But his lawyers said the ruling is outrageous and unprecedented.
Mr Lukwago said they will take the matter to the Court of Appeal. “We can’t allow him to violate the law with impunity because this is serious. It touches not only on the constitutionality of matters but also civil liberty.” He told journalists that Mr Otunnu is an international diplomat “who cannot just be picked from the street and brought to Lira.” “This ruling is going to be overturned within a short period of time. The warrant he has issued cannot be implemented.” Police deployed at the court with the District Police Commander, Maruk Aruk personally in command.