The three justices of the Court of Appeal; Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, Irene Esther Mulyagonja and Eva Luswata have advised the jailed lawyer Male Mabirizi to seek pardon from Justice Musa Ssekaana to regain his freedom or serve his sentence.
On 15th February 2022, the High Court Civil Division Judge Ssekaana sentenced Mabirizi to 18 months in prison for contempt of court.
Ssekaana’s decision followed an application by the state attorney Patricia Mutesi from the attorney general’s chambers who argued that despite a January 27, 2022 order warning Mabirizi to desist from attacking judicial officers in which he was ordered to pay a compensation of 300 million shillings, he continued making contemptuous posts on his social media platforms against him (Ssekaana) and the judiciary.
According to Mutesi, in the posts, Mabirizi accused Ssekaana of being biased, incompetent and not able to head the most miniature court of a family, and one who doesn’t qualify for any award from the Uganda Law Society and not even competent enough to be a grade two magistrate.
On March 1st 2022, Mabirizi filed a set of 12 applications to the Court of Appeal with different names but all seeking to be released temporarily because he filed a notice of appeal challenging Ssekaana’s decision and that the intended appeal has a higher and reasonable chance of success.
However, the justices in their ruling made on Friday, unanimously agreed with the submissions by the Attorney General and dismissed Mabirizi’s applications with costs.
They all agreed that Mabirizi was committed for criminal contempt which is an offence that is subject to the inherent jurisdiction of the court which was at the discretion of that court. This implies that the sentence of a contemnor committed for criminal contempt is similar to any other sentence under the criminal laws of Uganda.
They said that no advocate who has been found guilty of contempt of court shall be permitted to appear, act or plead in any court unless he has purged himself of the hate.
“We, therefore, concluded that criminal contemnors though pardonable cannot be purged. Since convictions and sentences resulting from criminal contempt are final, the contemnor cannot purge his contempt by simply paying a fine however large. However, the contemnor may apologize to the court of which he or she was found to be in contempt but such apology must be genuine, signifying that the contemnor is truly contrite,” they said.
All three Justices dismissed the application noting that it had no merit. Mabirizi will also continue to serve his sentence of 18 months imposed on him on 15th February until it expires.
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