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September 19, 2021

Just In: DPP drops Money laundering charges against human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo

The Directorate of Public Prosecution(DPP) has withdrawn money laundering charges against human rights lawyer and defender Nicholas Opiyo.

This comes hours after the high court judge Lawrence Gidudu had given the government an ultimatum of seven days to complete investigating the corruption case brought against lawyer Nicholas Opiyo or have the charges against him terminated.

Justice Gidudu gave the last caution to the prosecution last Wednesday, arguing that suspects should be accorded a fair and speedy trial.

“The court is mandated to balance the right of the State to prosecute offenders to punish crime in society with the right of an accused to have a fair, speedy and public trial before an impartial court. Consequently, I make the following orders to dispose of this application,” held Justice Gidudu.

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“The prosecution (DPP) is given seven days from the date hereof, to commit the applicant (lawyer Opiyo) for trial before the High Court and disclose its case to the accused. For the avoidance of doubt, this is before the closure of business on September 15, 2021 (this Wednesday),” he added.

The judge further warned that should the DPP fail to commit Mr Opiyo to the High Court for trial, his case shall be terminated.

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“If after September 15, the applicant (Mr Opiyo) has not been committed for trial to the High Court, then the prosecution of the applicant in criminal case 106 of 2020 shall stand terminated under section 17 (2) of the Judicature Act to prevent abuse of the process of the court by curtailing delays in prosecuting the applicant. There are no orders as to costs,” Justice Gidudu further ordered.

Mr Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, was arrested in December last year and subsequently, charged with money laundering.

The prosecution alleged that on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch in Kampala District, Opio’s Organization Chapter Four Uganda where he is the Executive Director acquired 340,000 dollars (1.2 billion Shillings) under account number 6004078045 knowing that at the time of receipt the money in question was proceeds of crime.

Opio was first arraigned in Nakawa Magistrates Court and remanded to Kitalya government prison before being granted bail by High Court. He was picked up by plain-clothed operatives while at Lamaro Restaurant in Kamwokya.

Opio was later taken to the Special Investigations Department of Police in Kireka together with four other lawyers/ human defenders but was later released on police bond. They are Simon Peter Esomu, Anthony Odur, Dakasi Herbert and Hamidu Tenywa. 

His arrest sparked off criticism from several organizations including the Uganda Law Society, foreign embassies and human rights activists, who argued that he had been arrested unlawfully on trumped-up charges and was later released on bail.

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