Dr Stella Nyanzi appeals
Makerere University Researcher, Dr Stella Nyanzi appeals against 18 months sentence. File photo

Following an 18 months prison sentence, Makerere University Researcher, Dr Stella Nyanzi has appealed to the High Court challenging her conviction and sentence.

Dr Stella Nyanzi who is expected to serve only nine months in prison since she had already spent other nine months on remand has appealed to the court to withdraw the punishment indicating that the magistrate passed an illegal and disproportionate sentence.

On August 2, 2019, Buganda Road Court Grade One Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu Musenze sentenced her to 18 months in prison after she was convicted of cyber harassment contrary to sections 24(1) and 24(2) (a) of the Computer Misuse Act (2011).

The prosecution said that on September 16, 2018, Dr Stella Nyanzi posted on her social media website suggestions deemed obscene against the President’s deceased mother.

It is stated that Dr Nyanzi also repeatedly posted messages to disturb or attempted to disturb the peace, quiet or right to privacy of the President – In March 2017, Stella Nyanzi referred to President Museveni as “a pair of buttocks.” 

In the appeal, Nyanzi argues that the court did not have the jurisdiction and that she allowed the charge that was incurably defective, unacceptably vague and barred by law.

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Dr Nyanzi’s appeal also indicated that the magistrate failed to properly evaluate the evidence on record, thereby arriving at a wrong decision in convicting the appellant of cyber harassment. Also, the court failed to compel the witness infringed on her right to a fair hearing.

Furthermore, the trial magistrate erred in law and fact when she refused to facilitate the compulsory attendance and examination of a defence witness, Mustapha B. Mugisa after he had absconded from court.

“That the learned trial magistrate erred in law and fact when she failed to accord to the appellant the necessary facilities to compel the attendance of witnesses, and thereby infringed on the appellant’s right to a fair hearing,” read the court document.

It added,

“The learned trial magistrate committed a grave procedural irregularity when she deprived the appellant of the right to address the court after the close of the defence case and in reply or opposition to the written submissions of the prosecution which were concealed from the appellant.” 

Meanwhile, She alleges that the magistrate contravened Article 28(5) of the 1995 Constitution, Section 123 of the Magistrates Court Act, and the Judicature (Visual-Audio Link) Rules (2016) when she conducted proceedings on August 2, 2019, via Visual-Audio Link.

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By John Dalton Kigozi