Ministry official charged with torture of soldier
A principal assistant secretary with the East African Community Affairs ministry has been charged in court for allegedly torturing two people including a UPDF soldier.
Mr James Okuja was on Tuesday arraigned in the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Lira District and charged with two counts of torture contrary to Section 2 (1), Section 4 (1) and Section 5 (a) of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act.
Prosecution states that Mr Okuja, a resident of Wakiso District and others still at large on May 1, 2017 at Dokolo Hotel in Dokolo District intentionally inflicted severe pain or suffering on Pte Paul Ocen by tying, beating and burning him with hot metal as a way of punishing him for suspected criminal trespass to Dokolo Hotel and malicious damage to a toilet water system.
The charge sheet further states that the accused and others still at large on May 1, 2017 at Dokolo Hotel, Dokolo District, internationally inflicted severe pain or suffering on Lameck Owong by way of tying him with a rope, beating, burning with hot metal as a way of punishing him for suspected criminal trespass to Dokolo Hotel and malicious damage to a toilet water system.
However, Mr Okuja denied the charges in court.
He then applied for bail which was granted after his lawyer, Mr Innocent Omara told court that his client has a serious illness, among others.
State Attorney, Mr Waiswa Bengo had protested Mr Okuja’s release, arguing that there was no proof that prison authorities could not manage his said medical condition as stated by the defence lawyer.
Mr Bengo further argued that Mr Okuja would interfere with police investigations.
However, the presiding Chief Magistrate, Alex Mushabe Karocho, granted the accused a cash bail of Shs300,000 after he presenting two substantial sureties, his uncle Faustino Pule and sister Esther Etap Okuja. Each of the sureties was bonded Shs5 million not cash.
“I have carefully listened to the grounds enumerated by counsel for the accused on which this bail application is premised. I have also listened to the counter arguments by the learned State Attorney and court has this to say……,” Mr Mushabe ruled.
“The accused is a man of advanced age, he has provided medical proof that he is suffering from medical condition requiring continuous treatment, no evidence has been availed to show that the accused indeed will interfere in investigation in event of release,” he said, adding that allegations of torture have gained notoriety countrywide.
However, the Chief Magistrate noted that it does not in any way erode the grand principle of presumption of innocence till one pleads or is found guilty by a competent court.
The accused will again report to court on May 31, 2017.