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UGANDAN COURT DECIDES HOMOPHOBIC SMEAR PREACHERS HAVE CASE TO ANSWER

in UGANDA, 19/12/2011

A Ugandan magistrate today ruled that three Christian clerics accused of conspiracy to damage the reputation of their fellow preacher Robert Kayanja by claiming he sodomises young men have a case to answer.

Magistrate John Patrick Wekesa ruled this morning in Kampala that the three Christian preachers, Martin Sempa, Solomon Male and Bob Kyazze should start defending themselves against charges of involvement in conspiracy to damage Kayanja’s name by way of a homophobic smear campaign.

The court has set December 19, as the date for the pastors to defend themselves.

The accused pastors, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with David Mukalazi and Deborah Kyomuhendo (agents of the accused) face charges of conspiring to injure Pastor Kayanja’s reputation. The two lawyers were included for allegedly commissioning false affidavits.

If convicted they face five years in jail under Ugandan law.

The magistrate ruled that court had obtained ample evidence to have the accused pastors in the land mark case defend themselves.

There was a heated verbal exchange between the magistrate and the defence lawyers on Thursday prior to the ruling. The defence had sought to block the ruling, claiming that magistrate Wekesa was biased against the pastors.

Edward Sekabanja, one of the defence counsels said he had written to court earlier asking that Wekesa withdraw from hearing the case. However the magistrate termed the suggestions as “nonsense.”

The magistrate threatened to have court security guards throw Sekabanja out of the court room. “You are not going to turn this court or any other into a traditional shrine and arm twist the law as you please,” the magistrate said.

The magistrate also declined to receive any submissions from the defence counsels, and advised the defence to prepare for submissions on December 19.

Wekesa reminded the accused that under Ugandan law, they had a right to defend themselves. He said they also had a right to keep quite and let court decide on the course of the case.

A total of 21 prosecution witnesses have testified to court since the beginning of this year, including the principal state witness, Pastor Robert Kayanja himself

Four earlier sodomy files opened against Kayanja at Central Police Station in Kampala were closed for lack of enough evidence to warrant prosecution. During that time the alleged sodomy victims were medically examined but no evidence of anal penetration was found.

Uganda’s First Lady Janet Museveni has been mentioned in some testimonies as having had prior knowledge of the smear campaign against Kayanja.

The landmark case is seen in some quarters as part of an on-going power struggle among evangelical Christian pastors to win over the support of the born-again Mrs Museveni, which could lead to the church being considered the top born-again congregations in Uganda. Churches for the born-again in Uganda are divided on who the titular head of the evangelical movement should be. Currently the churches subscribe to various coordinating entities that rarely see eye to eye.

Supporters and followers of the rival preachers hurled insults at each other after the ruling.

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