UPDF soldiers appeal death sentence

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KAMPALA- Two officers of Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) have appealed against the death sentence handed to them for murder.
Pte Ochamali Odongo and Pte Isaac Omondi separately filed their appeals in General Court Martial.

They submitted that the lower military courts wrongly convicted and sentenced them to maximum penalties.
Pte Odongo was convicted for murder and robbery by the Division Court Martial (DCM) at Muhoti Barracks in Fort Portal, Kabarole District. He was sentenced to death while Pte Omondi was sentenced to death by the Fourth Division Court Martial in May 2001.
While appearing before the General Court Martial at Makindye in Kampala, Pte Odongo’s lawyer Elizabeth Nabatanzi said the lower military court failed to properly evaluate evidence before it and reached a wrong conclusion to convict her client, which mistake tantamounts to miscarriage of justice.

“The trial court failed to evaluate whether prosecution had proved the ingredients of offences of murder and robbery against Pte Odongo where it did not prove that the deceased is dead, the death was caused unlawfully, there was malice aforethought or that the appellant directly or indirectly participated in the commission of the offence, according to the record of proceedings,” reads the appeal.
Pte Odongo’s lawyer told the court that he was charged and convicted over offences committed in 2006 yet he had been in detention since 2004.

“Since 2004, he was in prison and does not know the offences against him because he was in prison at the time of commission of the alleged offences. In August 2006, the Second Division Court Martial read to him charges of rape and confusion ensued when the chairman asked who had been raped,” Ms Nabatanzi said. “They took him out of court and when he was later brought back after some minutes, he was charged with robbery of a gun. He never answered anything that day and was remanded to Katojo Prison in Fort Portal. He states that in February 2007, he was taken to Kasese and some complainants he did not know testified against him.”
On his part, Pte Omondi asked court to acquit him accordingly. He said there is no traceable record of proceedings from the trial court and numerous attempts to secure them proved futile.

The court also heard that the record of proceedings in respect to Pte Omondi’s trial by the 4th Division court martial could not be traced to allow him compile a memorandum of appeal.
According to court documents, in June 2013, Pte Omondi wrote to the 4th Division Court Martial seeking a record of proceedings to pursue his appeal but the legal officer told him that they could not be traced whether in soft or hard copies.
The General Court Martial is chaired by Lt Gen. Andrew Gutti. The cases were adjourned to August 1 and 8 for the prosecution to respond.
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