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Excitement as court sets Stella Nyanzi free

Thursday February 20 2020

Dr Stella Nyanzi speaks to supporters and journalists at International War Crimes Division of the High Court in Kololo, Kampala

Dr Stella Nyanzi speaks to supporters and journalists at International War Crimes Division of the High Court in Kololo, Kampala shortly after the judged ordered for her release on February 20, 2020. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DAILY MONITOR
By DAILY MONITOR
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Dr Stella Nyanzi collapsed at the International War Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala on Thursday minutes after the judge ordered for her release from Luzira Prison where she has been for months.

Dr Nyanzi was last year convicted and sentenced to 18 months for harassing President Yoweri Museveni.

However, she appealed against the conviction and sentence citing unfairness and that the trial court erred in law.

On Thursday, Justice Henry Peter Adonyo who heard her appeal ordered for her “immediate release” from prison.

The judge noted that Buganda Road trial magistrate, Gladys Kamasanyu had no jurisdiction to convict Dr Nyanzi of cyber harassment.

A prison warder closes the door of a van in
A prison warder closes the door of a van in which Dr Stella Nyanzi was bundled shortly after she collapsed following a court order to set her free on February 20, 2020. PHOTO BY BETTY NDAGIRE

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In addition, Justice Adonyo said no evidence was adduced by prosecution showing the location- of the device- where the offence was committed; either Uganda or out of the country.

“Prosecution did not as well ascertain the kind of device which was used to send as the digital prints were not presented before Buganda road,” the judge observed.

Court also observed that Dr Nyanzi and her lawyers were not allowed enough time to prepare their defence thus amounting to unfairness.

The first prosecution witness did not provide a forensic report on his findings indicating which mobile data was used after he asserted that Dr Nyanzi might have used a phone.

The judge also said that in criminal offences, it is the duty of court to ensure that defense witnesses appear by providing the defendant the favourable avenues like issuing arrest warrants for defence witnesses who are not compliant which the magistrate never did.

Dr Stella Nyanzi chats with prison warders
Dr Stella Nyanzi chats with prison warders shortly after arriving at the International War Crimes Division of the High Court in Kololo for a ruling in her appeal against her conviction and sentence for cyber harassment of President Museveni. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

The judge’s orders forced the fully packed court to explode in excitement as Dr Nyanzi’s supporters, friends and relatives jostled to congratulate her.

She collapsed as she was being helped to go sign her release papers.

By the time of filing this story, prison warders were later seen carrying her to a waiting prison car registration number UG 0172U.

Dr Nyanzi was in August 2019 been given an 18-month sentence but had already served nine months in Luzira Women's Prison after publishing the verse that magistrate

Gladys Kamasanyu said should never have been put in the public domain, describing it as "obscene" and "indecent" including suggestions which "could only be made by an immoral person."

Report by Betty Ndagire.