High Court judge Elizabeth Kibula Kabanda has pulled out of a case where nine people are accused of murdering Susan Magara. The judge was yesterday scheduled to hear an application in which the accused were seeking a private medical examination over alleged torture, but she, instead, pulled out of the case, citing a conflict of interest.
Kabanda explained that she could not preside over the matter because one of the accused is known to her.
“After perusing the file, I have found out that one of the accused, Hajara Nakandi, is known to me. I have, therefore, chosen to recuse myself to avoid conflict of interest in the matter,” Kabanda ruled.
She, consequently, returned the file to the deputy registrar of the High Court in charge of Criminal Division, Mary Ikit, to allocate it to another judge. Nakandi, 35, the only female among the suspects, is said to have kept Susan in her house for days before she was murdered in cold blood on February 27.
Susan, 28, a daughter of city businessman John Magara, was kidnapped on February 7 from Kabaka Anjagala Road in Mengo, Kampala, as she drove back home to Lungujja, Rubaga division. Her killers then contacted the family and demanded a $1m (about sh3.65b) ransom before they could release her. She was held hostage for over 20 days and at the time of her murder, her family had paid ransom money believed to be over sh700m to the killers.
On August 15, Buganda Road Court Grade One Magistrate Robert Mukanza dismissed their first medical examination application on grounds that his role in the matter was to continue mention of the case until committal. He advised them to seek legal redress from the High Court, which has powers to handle their case.
Others accused are Mahad Kasalita, the Imam of Usafi Mosque in Kisenyi, Yusuf Lubega, Hussein Wasswa, Muzamiru Ssali, Abubaker Kyewolwa, Hassan Kato Miiro, Ismail Bukenya, Musa Buvumbo and Patrick Kashaija alias Pato. Pato is a South Africa-Ugandan businessman. Last month, the group was committed to the High Court for trial. The accused, through their lawyers Isaac Ssemakadde and Hakim Lubega, want an order for a private medical examination on grounds that they were tortured while in Police custody.
They also allege they were forced to sign letters confessing to the charge. According to their lawyers, the suspects informed them that they were allegedly blindfolded, bound in pairs, confined in extremely cold detention cells, beaten and subjected to electric shocks in a bid to force them confess to the charge.
“We believe if the court allows this application, it will help us ascertain the allegations of torture by the accused,” Lubega said.
Prosecution alleges that the accused on February 7 kidnapped Susan with intent to procure a ransom, but, instead, murdered her on February 27. Court documents indicate that she was murdered on February 27 and her body later dumped at Kigo in Wakiso district.