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Kampala bomb suspects in court for judgement

After a year of trial, Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo will deliver his judgment today on Thursday in the case against 13 men accused of masterminding the July 2010 Kampala bombings.


Some 76 people died and many more were injured in the two bombings at Kyadondo Rugby Club and Ethiopian Village restaurant at Kabalagala. Most victims were watching the World Cup final game in South Africa between Spain and Holland.

The accused include Hussein Hassan Agade, Edris Christopher Magondu, Isa Ahmed Luyima, Hassan Haruna Luyima, Abubakari Batemyetto and Yahya Suleiman Mbuthia. Others are Habib Suleiman Njoroge, Omar Awadh Omar, Mohammad Hamid Sulaiman, Seleman Hijar Nyamandondo, Mohammad Ali Mohammad, Dr Ismail Kalule and Muzafar Luyima.

Two sets of brothers are among the suspects. There’s the Ugandan trio of the Luyima brothers [Isa, Haruna and Muzafar] as well as Kenyans Njoroge, Mbuthia and their Tanzanian brother Nyamandondo.

WITNESSES
During the trial, prosecution led by senior principal state attorney Suzan Okalany, who has since been elevated to a judge, presented a total of 78 witnesses. The witnesses included Ugandan security operatives, survivors of the carnage, FBI agents, Tanzanian and Kenyan detectives plus other private citizens.
The trial, which was slated to begin in 2011 had a lot of hiccups. First, when the suspects were committed to the High court for trial in 2011, the Kenyans and Tanzanians went to the Constitutional court and challenged the manner in which they were extradited from their respective countries.

But on October 22, 2014, the court dismissed the petition, saying: “The two countries [Kenyan and Tanzania] voluntarily arrested and surrendered the suspects to the police of Uganda.”

Yet when the trial started in March 2015, it had to be suspended indefinitely after the gruesome murder of the lead prosecutor Joan Kagezi on March 30, 2015. Kagezi was also the assistant director of Public Prosecutions in charge of international crimes.

STRENGTH OF THE CASE
The prosecution’s case is largely hinged on the evidence of two self-confessed conspirators-turned-state-witnesses, Mahmoud Mugisha and Edris Nsubuga.
Mugisha, who was the first prosecution witness, said in his court testimony that he trained with the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab together with suspects Isa Luyima, Agade, Njoroge, Mohammad Ali Mohammad and Nyamandondo.

Mugisha also claimed that he, together with Nyamandondo, a Tanzanian national, used a Toyota Land Cruiser to transport the bombs from Nairobi to Uganda.
According to Mugisha, he was arrested at the Kenya-Uganda border but Nyamandondo slipped through. Mugisha, who served a five-year sentence in return for his cooperation with the state, said Nyamandondo proceeded to Kampala and delivered the bombs to Isa [Luyima], who was based in Namasuba along Entebbe road.

It was also his evidence that the shop of Dr Kalule, found in Kampala Central, was used as the contact place of the masterminds of the plot since they never used phones.

Nsubuga, the second state witness and a convict serving a 25-year-jail sentence on his own admission of guilt in detonating the second bomb at Kyaddondo rugby grounds, testified that he kept the killer bombs for three months before they were detonated.

Nsubuga said that Isa returned to Uganda from Nairobi early in January 2010 and told him that he wanted to stay permanently in Uganda because Kenyan authorities were trailing him for his alleged involvement in Mujahedeen activities. Mujahedeen are religious fighters in Islam. According to Nsubuga, he met Isa at Pioneer mall in Kampala and that at that time he already knew that Isa was involved with Mujahedeen because he had told him so in 2009.

EXPLOSIVES
Nsubuga said that on May 9, 2010, Isa called him and informed him that he was expecting some “items” (explosives), which he requested him to keep and he accepted.

According to Nsubuga, Isa was in the company of Nyamandondo in a tourist Toyota Land Cruiser and they met at Busabala junction and he took them to his residence at Najjanankumbi. At Nsubuga’s house, Isa removed the bags from the vehicle and a toolbox and told him to keep them safely.

With the trial winding down, most of the Kenyan suspects were not linked to the bombings that jolted the entire East African region into action against terrorism. But a Kenyan detective, Christopher Oguso, detailed in court how the suspects communicated severally on phone across borders as they planned the bombings.

First, Oguso said they arrested Agade who admitted knowing about the Kampala attacks and went ahead to point out some of his accomplices. Oguso testified that Ogade had saved the number 0727-5555555 in his phone as “boss.”

According to Oguso, Agade told Kenyan police that “boss” was a veiled reference to suspect Omar Awadh Omar. According to Oguso, Agade told his captors that Omar was the chief financer of the plot.

That Agade also gave them phone number 0702945298, which was for Magondu, 0735-766-637 for Mohammed Ali Mohammed and 0732-812681 for Isa who was using the pseudo names of Baseyevu Umar to beat security.

Oguso said that Agade admitted to escorting the suicide bombers from Mombasa to Nairobi. The detective said that when they arrested Magondu, he told them he had been approached by Mohammed Ali Mohammed to take the suicide bombers to the bus bound for Uganda. Magondu was approached because the visitors did not have travel documents. He was asked to talk to the bus driver and the conductor to allow the bombers on board since he knew them well.

Though most of the suspects were directly linked to the plot, Batemyetto was never implicated by any of the witnesses. During their defence, all the suspects denied participating in or knowing about the plot. Justice Owiny-Dollo will tomorrow reveal which side convinced court.

Jimirasire

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