Katanga Murder Trial:Defence team slams ‘unfair’ new charges

KAMPALA, UGANDA – In a significant development in the high-profile Katanga murder case, the court has granted the prosecution’s application to amend the charges against four of the accused persons, despite objections from the defence team.

The trial presided over by Justice Isaac Muwata of the High Court Criminal Division entered day two today, Wednesday, July 3rd, 2024.

And one of the matters to rule on first was whether to add additional charges on Molly’s co-accused—Patricia Kakwanza, Martha Nkwanzi, Charles Otai and George Amanyire following lengthy deliberations from defence and prosecution lawyers on Tuesday which prompted an adjournment to today to make a ruling by the judge.

Indeed the judge granted the prosecution’s application to amend the charges against four of the accused persons.

Consequently, Patricia and Martha Nkwanzi who have been facing one charge of destroying and tampering evidence have now been slapped on a second charge of being accessories after the fact of murder.

Similarly, Otai and George who have been facing one charge of being accessories after the fact of murder were also slapped on the second charge of destroying and tampering evidence.

The ruling paved the way for the trial to proceed, and Molly’s co-accused pleaded not guilty to the new charges.

The prosecution, led by Samalie Wakholi, had applied to amend the particulars of the charge and add new charges against the four suspects.

However, the defence team, led by Peter Kabatsi, objected to the amendment, citing Section 50(2) of the Trial on Indictment Act (TIA).

The defence argued that the new charges were not disclosed in evidence at committal and that allowing them would cause prejudice and injustice to the accused persons.

They contended that the accused persons had not prepared to defend themselves against the new charges and that the amendment would be contrary to the provisions of the TIA.

Kabatsi described the attempts to amend the charge sheets as preposterous and oblivious to the dictate of causing injustice and prejudice.

In his ruling, the judge held that the court has the discretion to alter the indictment as it deems necessary for the case.

He noted that the evidence was disclosed at trial, and therefore, the accused persons would not be prejudiced by the amendment.

He also held that if more time is needed by the defence to prepare will also be considered during trial.

The court accordingly allowed the amendment of the charges and the four accused persons pleaded not guilty.

The court’s decision has been met with criticism from the defence team, with lawyers for Molly Katanga and the co-accused arguing that allowing new charges against their clients violates the law.
“The court’s decision is a clear violation of our client’s rights,” said Peter Kabatsi.

The court also introduced three court assessors, Sharp Mutonyi , Okongo Simon and Consulate Tabu to help with the case.

The accused persons confirmed that they have no problem with the assessors handling their case despite not knowing them.

The assessors will listen to the evidence and provide an opinion to the court on whether to acquit or find the accused persons guilty. However, their opinion is not binding on the court, which can decide on its own.

However, no sooner had the prosecution expressed readiness to proceed with trial and two witnesses ready to testify than when the defence team threw the spanner in the deliberations trial by contesting the presence of the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Samalie Wakholi on the prosecution team arguing that she is instead a potential witness.

They say she can’t be a prosecutor and at the same time a witness since this contravenes several sections of the law and various regulations.

Their prayers are that the court should order lead prosecutor Wakholi to recuse from the case and prepare to be a defence witness if need arise.
They argue that her presence contravenes

This argument caught the prosecution team unawares and they had to ask for an hour break to consult and prepare accordingly, a request that was granted.

After court resumed prosecution put up a spirited fight but the defence team endeavored to shoot all the arguments raised down and remained unfazed on their application position.

Following counterarguments from defence and prosecution, Justice Muwata adjourned the hearing to Tuesday, July 9, 2024 to rule on this matter.

Meanwhile, the court allowed Molly to appear via zoom in subsequent hearings due to health, human rights and compassionate grounds.

Whereas, prosecution did not object to the matter, they argued that the court should follow the law by making the application formal so as not to amount to procedural irregularity.

Prosecution prayed for two things: that Molly should be able to be physically produced in court in case the nature of the prosecution witness requires her physical presence; and that in the event that she is put on her defence, she should appear physically for cross examination.

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