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Stella Nyanzi

Dr Stella Nyanzi Runs To High Court To Fight Mental Exam

The Criminal division of the High court has recalled from Buganda Road chief Magistrate’s court the case file of Dr Stella Nyanzi, the jailed Makerere University researcher, following an appeal by her lawyers.

Check also: Why Ugandan University Lecturer, Stella Nyanzi Refused Psychiatric Tests

Stella Nyanzi, a virulent government critic on social media, is facing criminal charges for allegedly referring to President Museveni as a “pair of buttocks” in a Facebook post.

The deputy registrar of the High court, Eleanor Khainza, recalled the file after Nyanzi’s lawyer Isaac Kimaze Ssemakadde wrote asking her to revise the case. In an April 11 letter to the High court, Ssemakadde accused Buganda Road court chief magistrate James Ereemye Mawanda, who has been handling the case, of siding with the state to refuse to hear Nyanzi’s bail application after she had taken plea.

Mawanda refused to hear Nyanzi’s bail application on April 10, after prosecutor Jonathan Muwaganya asked court to first ascertain Nyanzi’s sanity. Ssemakadde said Mawanda “erroneously and injudiciously” remanded his client to Luzira prison until Tuesday, April 25, 2017.

The lawyer also faulted Mawanda for directing that Nyanzi’s bail application should await the determination of Nyanzi’s sanity.

“In effect, the learned chief magistrate [Mwanda] has thrown into indefinite limbo a bundle of our client’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to liberty, presumption of innocence, presumption of sanity and a fair and speedy hearing before the determination of her civil rights,” he said.

Ssemakadde said Mawanda failed to uphold “the very important duties cast on him as a judicial officer” by articles 20(2) and 274 of the Constitution, as well as Section 113(3) of the Magistrate’s Courts Act.

In his letter, also copied to Principal Judge Yorokamu Bawmine, Ssemakadde said Mawanda “wittingly or unwittingly subjected Nyanzi to unlawful detention or involuntary commitment under the mistaken view that what he was doing was the proper practice and procedure of the court when dealing with an application for an inquiry into one’s insanity.”

In recalling the file, High court invoked its supervisory powers under Section 17 of the Judicature Act and powers under section 48 of the Criminal Procedure Code Act. The said laws empower the High court to examine records from the magistrate’s court for the purpose of satisfying itself about the correctness and legality of the orders passed by the chief magistrate.

Ssemakadde wants the High court to strike out the state’s purported application, which seeks a mental examination of Nyanzi because it is “frivolous, vexatious and malicious abuse of process.”

Separately, through the Center for Legal Aid, Stella Nyanzi has filed her bail application at the Criminal division of the High court. Nyanzi’s application has been supported by an affidavit sworn by her sister Sheillah Nyanzi, who contends that bail should be granted because Stella Nyanzi is her family’s sole breadwinner and a mother of three.

In the application, Sheillah complains that when her sister appeared before Buganda Road chief magistrate’s court on April 10, she was ambushed with an application for a mental examination.

“The trial magistrate explained that he would postpone all the constitutional remedies of the applicant, including the right to apply for bail, pending his determination of an application for declaration of the applicant as of unsound mind and fit for detention in a mental facility,” says Sheillah.

Nyanzi, who faces two counts of cyber harassment, is popular on Facebook for her relentless criticism of President Museveni and his wife Janet Museveni.

Source: The observer

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