Court has barred the media from covering testimonies of four key witnesses in the trial of 14 Muslim leaders, including head of the Tabliq Sect Sheikh Yunus Kamoga, who are accused of masterminding assassinations of top rival Muslim clerics two years ago .
The move is intended to protect the identity of the witnesses for safety reasons.
The general public including relatives and friends of the 14 accused persons who had, in previous proceedings, been attending in big numbers, have also been barred until the four witnesses have completed their testimonies.
The ban, which comes into force today, was prompted by an application from the Principal State Attorney, Mr Lino Anguzu. Earlier this week, Mr Anguzu told the presiding judge that his next four key witnesses had expressed fear to testify in open court.
He said the witnesses feared to testify in the open because it would expose them to risks but they would testify only if they were protected from media and public exposure.
The only categories of people allowed to attend the proceedings in the International Crimes Division of the High Court (ICD) are judges, defence lawyers, prosecutors, the accused persons and court staff including the three court assessors.
The court also granted the prosecution’s other request to have their next four state witnesses identified by pseudo names for security reasons.
“Court hereby allows the application and orders as follows; prosecution may call its next four witnesses under pseudo names A, B, C and D starting tomorrow [today] February 10 2017 at 9am,” the lead judge of the three-member panel Ezekiel Muhanguzi ruled.
It was not readily established how long the four witnesses would take to testify but there was information suggesting their testimonies would go on until Thursday next week.
Court ignored the prosecution alternative proposal of having the four witnesses testify using the new technology dubbed ‘audio-visual link’. Under this technology method which the judiciary launched last year, a witness can testify from an off-court location due to reasons like security considerations and long distance, among others.
Twenty seven prosecution witnesses have already testified in the trial against 14 suspects accused of masterminding coordinated killings of top Muslim clerics in the country two years ago.
The deceased include Sheikh Mustafar Bahiga who was gunned down at Bwebajja mosque along Entebbe Road and Sheikh Hassan Ibrahim Kirya, who was shot dead in Bweyogerere, Wakiso District.
Prosecution further contends that the 14 accused threatened to kill Prince Kassim Nakibinge and Dr Haruna Jemba in Wakiso. The suspects face several charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder which happened between December 2013 and June 2015 in Kampala and Wakiso districts.
Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan Kirya was attacked and shot dead by unknown assailants on a bodaboda motor cycle on June 30 last year in Bweyogerere, Wakiso District. Sheikh Kirya had earlier informed police that he feared for his life after a number of Muslim clerics were killed in related incidents.