The Attorney General has asked the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala to dismiss the application in which the Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu Kimono is seeking to halt her criminal trial in the iron sheets scandal.
Kitutu challenged the trial in 2023, shortly after she was charged for diverting over 10,000 iron sheets from the intended Karamoja Community Empowerment Program on grounds that she was tortured while in state custody and that her trial should instead be halted on that basis.
However, in November 2023, Lady Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga dismissed her application because it lacked substantial evidence and contained falsehoods. This was based on what she described as consistent statements from police officers that the minister was not subjected to any form of torture or coercion, contrary to her claims.
Subsequently, Kitutu through her lawyers led by Jude Byamukama filed an appeal against the dismissal of her application and also filed another seeking to stay proceedings in the High Court pending the determination of the appeal. The matter was scheduled for today before Lady Justice Kajuga and it was adjourned for ruling on February 8th 2024.
However, the Attorney General, relying on an affidavit by state Attorney Ann Kiiza, said that the Minister’s appeal has no likelihood of success and she has not demonstrated a prima facie case with the possibility of success and the likelihood of the appeal being rendered nugatory.
Kiiza says Kitutu’s appeal doesn’t have plausible or persuasive grounds to alter the ruling of the Court. She says no extraordinary circumstance has been illustrated to warrant the stay of criminal proceedings and the case against Kitutu is of public interest.
“That I know that the stay of proceedings is a grave judicial action which requires a much higher standard and a stringent test. I know that criminal proceedings involved public interest and take precedence over civil matters which are individualistic “reads Ann Kiiza’s affidavit.
According to Kiiza, Kitutu will not be prejudiced in any way as the case which is on appeal is purely a civil matter which can be atoned by way of damages. She adds that her lawyers from the Attorney General’s chambers have advised her that there is no universal principle mandating a stay in criminal proceedings when a matter is pending in civil court.
Kiiza insists that the Constitution requires a fair, speedy and public trial in criminal matters and Kitutu will be granted the same because the hearing of her case is on the 12th, 14th and 15th of February 2024.
The Government contends that delaying the criminal trial will substantially affect the evidence in the form of exhibits available which are likely to be tampered with and the witnesses comprised.
“The State’s injuries are irreparable compared to the injuries that would be occasioned to the applicant . The balance of convenience lies in favour of the respondent who has the constitutional mandate to ensure that the public is protected against crime”, says Kiiza in her affidavit.
The State Attorney contends that the stay of proceedings pending the disposal of a civil appeal is not envisaged under the Human Enforcement Act after the decision has been rendered. The Prosecution has so far levied two separate criminal files against Kitutu in less than a year, the first one being where she is implicated in the diversion of iron sheets in OPM whose trial she wants halted pending appeal and another in which IGG accuses her of causing a 1.5 billion shillings financial loss.
In 2023, the Parliament Committee conducted investigations into the supplementary funds, referring the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Criminal Investigations Department (CID) for action.