By Charles Etukuri
The High Court yesterday, February 16, issued an arrest warrant for controversial lawyer Male Mabirizi, who is on the run, directing any police officer to arrest him and deliver him to the prison mentioned in the committal warrant with immediate effect.
The warrant of arrest in execution, issued by Agnes Alum, the assistant registrar the Civil Division, stated: “Whereas Mabirizi has been found liable in contempt of court order, this is to command you to arrest and deliver the said person to prison mentioned in committal warrant with immediate effect.”
On Tuesday, Mabirizi was sentenced to 18 months in prison by Justice Musa Ssekaana for contempt of court after he failed to pay sh300m court fine.
Mabirizi, who has since gone into hiding, on Wednesday confirmed via social accounts linked to him that security agencies had raided the home of one of his friends, “only to find I had just left.”
Mabirizi released a photo showing himself together with another lawyer, Isaac Ssemakadde, enjoying a hefty meal. He, however, insisted that the warrant was illegal since he had appealed Justice Musa Ssekaana ruling.
In a live video recording released on Wednesday, Mabirizi vowed to fight for his rights.
Last week, Ssekaana summoned Mabirizi to appear in court to show cause why he should not be committed to civil prison over contempt of court.
Ssekaana and Mabirizi have been at loggerheads since 2009 during the hearing of the case in which Mabirizi contested Justice Simon Byabakama’s appointment as the Electoral Commission boss without relinquishing his job at the Court of Appeal.
The sentence comes days after Mabirizi skipped court and hired lawyer Noel Nuwe of Ojok and Company Advocates to represent him in the case in which the Attorney General wanted him committed to prison over contempt of court.
During the short-lived proceedings, the judge ordered Nuwe to return to court on Tuesday with clear instructions from Mabirizi.
Asked why he chose to hire a lawyer, Mabirizi said: “This is the option I have chosen, and it is legal.”
Mabirizi, however, faulted the judge, saying he entered the judgment against him erroneously without ascertaining whether the said Facebook account belongs to him. He said he has since appealed against the decision.
Genesis of the case
Mabirizi is accused of violating a court order issued by Ssekaana in which he was ordered to pay over sh300m for ridiculing High Court Judge Philip Odoki.
Odoki handled the case in which Mabirizi sued telecom giant MTN-Uganda, but Mabirizi was dissatisfied with his decision and purportedly turned against the judge via his social media platform, an act Mabirizi denies to date.
Mabirizi will not be the first person to be sent to Luzira on contempt of court charges.
In November 2020, the Supreme Court jailed Ivan Samuel Ssebadduka, a former presidential aspirant, to three years in prison for contempt of court for using abusive language against them, including calling them “incompetent fools.”
In the petition, Ssebadduka wanted the Supreme Court to block the virtual presidential candidate campaigns and suspend the requirement for presidential aspirants to collect signatures for their nominations.
According to the justices, Ssebadduka used abusive language in his petition when he described them as a “council of fools.”
He also described the Electoral Commission and its chairperson, Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, Ministry of Health and President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as ignorant and unintelligible on the basics of COVID-19.
The panel of seven Supreme Court justices, led by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, summoned Ssebadduka to appear before them, and explain why he shouldn’t be found guilty for contempt of court after he allegedly abused them in his application.
But in his written response to the summons, Ssebadduka described the justices as incompetent, saying the accusations of contempt of court were baseless because the justices couldn’t challenge him legally.
“We didn’t offend you or you’re so-called Supreme Court because it is not a court in the first place. It is a council of fools…” Ssebadduka’s response filed in the court registry on November 7, 2020 read in part.