MY PRISON EXPERIENCE: The Twists & Turns in Chase for Court Bail
By Markson Omagor
EAZY WIKEND READING
On my first day in court, I was presented before a Grade 1 Magistrate who read to me my charges inside his chambers. He told me I could only plead and subsequently remanded me for two weeks.
However, before the lapse of the two weeks, my lawyers asked for me to be released on bail with their usual jargon: He has a permanent residence, has chances of winning the case, a responsible citizen and above all is highly hypertensive.
The choice of high blood pressure was one of the safest because a presiding Judge could not by use of ordinary eyes tell whether the claim was true or not. Such a judge could only rely on a medical report which given my position was very easy to get.
So after week one in Malukhu prison, I was loaded onto a prison’s lorry handcuffed at least this time to a man nearly my height. At about 9:30 a:m, I was presented before a judge for bail hearing. But something seemed not right. The Judge kept on consulting the Clerks yet my file was before him and we were anxiously waiting for the proceedings to begin.
My family and friends were also inside court hoping and praying that at least that day I would get freedom however, temporal.
“Omagor Dick Mark case coming up for bail hearing,” the Judge finally spoke up. I tensed and a shiver started. I was smelling a bad smell.
“This court can’t hear your bail application until further communication from the Principal Judge,” the bad news hit me like a sledge hammer.
We were later to be informed by the Clerks that although the Judge had come prepared to grant me bail, there had been a very recent communication to the effect that all Anti-corruption cases were to be handled in the Kampala Anti-corruption court. There was however, still uncertainty on whether that included bail applications and the Judge was to write to the Principal Judge for clarification.
I nearly cried inside the Court room, but I held back my tears because I noticed my family was psychologically more battered than I was. Crying in front of them would only increase their pain, their suffering. Instead, I encouraged them, assuring them I would not spend another week in Prison because my failure to get bail that day was only due to administrative changes.
So at 5:00PM, we were loaded again onto our lorry and driven back to Malukhu. My lawyers left me with assurances that they were going to do what it takes to engage the Principal Judge for proper guidance.
That engagement took more than two weeks. In total, I had now spent three weeks inside Malukhu prison. I got disgusted with that team of lawyers and engaged Counsel Yusuf Mutembuli whom I had known personally. He told me to facilitate him to go to the Anti-corruption Court in Kololo, Kampala, and that I did.
Two days later, Yusuf came back with a letter of appointment for my bail application hearing. That was a Wednesday of my fourth week in prison. On Friday, the same week while playing ‘Omweso’ a popular board game in Uganda, the OC sent an RP to look for me.
“You are needed in the OC’s office right away,” the RP told me effectively pulling me out of a game I had not completed. Inside the OC’s office, were Prison Officials from Luzira Prisons. They had been sent to pick me up from Mbale in a double cabin Pick-up, with 4 escorts! Can you imagine!
However, as we prepared to leave after picking my personal belongings, a message came through from Soroti Prisons that a high profile suspect needed to be transferred to Kampala for his own safety.
The suspect whose names am not pleasure to reveal had been arrested for allegedly killing his political opponent and the relatives of the deceased were plotting to raid Soroti Prisons and kill him as well. So the vehicle first went to Soroti leaving me behind waiting for their return. It was about 8:00PM that they came back and off our journey to Kampala, my journey to temporal freedom started.
Along the way, we joked and laughed with Prison Officials, they allowed us buy beer and drink, we even had stop-overs where we bought chicken and gonja and ate happily. Of course for me, I knew Saturday and Sunday would be my only other days in Prison – and I was ready for those two days or so I thought……….
(Next week, I will share with you my two most distressing days of prison life….)