Makerere University researcher Dr Stella Nyanzi Wednesday morning appeared before the Buganda Road Magistrate’s Court in Kampala on Wednesday for the hearing of her bail application.
But Dr Nyanzi arrived late for the hearing. She arrived at about 10:45am instead of 9am – about two hours late.
Her lawyers had earlier said she was “unwell”.
Indeed Nyanzi needed support to walk. She arrived at court being supported by two female prison warders. She all sat in the dock throughout the court proceedings.
Prisons officials said she had even collapsed Wednesday morning because of severe malaria.
She has since been released on bail.
The magistrate says he has granted Nyanzi temporary freedom to enable her access to her personal files so she can ably respond to the state’s application to examine her sanity.
She was granted non cash bail of Shs 10million and stood surety by 5 people; her sister Sheila B Nyanzi, a friend Nalongo Namata Annet, Dr Moses Khisa, a Political Science don at North Western University USA, activist Solome Nakaweesi Kayondo and Human rights activist Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala, who were each placed on a non cash bond of Shs 10 million to ensure that the accused returns to court on the 25th/May 2017.
Nyanzi has also been ordered to deposit her passport with court and she is forbidden from discussing and writing about this on-going court case.
On the 25th/May 2017, Nyanzi’s defence team led by Nicholas Opio will submit before court why their client should not be subjected to a mental status examination because she is absolutely normal.
Nyanzi faces charges of offensive communication and cyber harassment over her Facebook posts targeting President Yoweri Museveni and his wife, Janet, Uganda’s education minister. The posts criticized the president for not providing sanitary napkins for schoolgirls, a campaign promise that the first lady later said could not be fulfilled because of lack of money.
Nyanzi called the first lady “foolish” and out of touch with ordinary Ugandans. Many families cannot afford sanitary napkins, one reason often cited for girls dropping out of school.
In reference to her vulgar and erotic posts, prosecutor Jonathan Muwaganya filed an application on April 10, asking court to order that Nyanzi is subjected to a psychiatric examination. Muwaganya told court that Nyanzi has a history of erratic psychiatric disorder and was once a patient at Butabika Hospital. The application was based on the affidavit by SP Mboniva Emmanuel, one of the police officers investigating Nyanzi’s case.
Today, Muwaganya had argued against her bail application saying that Nyanzi should not be released before determination of her mental status. Muwaganya added that Nyanzi should be stopped from making any cyber-attack or derogatory statement against the president and his immediate relatives. He also asked court Stella to refrain from discussing the case in court.
But Defence Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo told court that they need time to discuss details of the mental health application before submitting detailed arguments against it and that can only happen when she is granted bail. Opiyo also protested the bail conditions arguing that such terms violate her freedom of expression. He prayed for lenient bail terms in consideration of her health condition.
Before court proceedings, a group of Makerere University human rights Students were arrested protesting Stella prosecution. Four students were arrested and are currently detained at Central Police Station, located near Buganda Road chief magistrate court.
Amnesty International and several Ugandan rights groups have called for Nyanzi’s unconditional release.
“The government’s attempt to prosecute her for speaking out for the rights of Uganda’s women and girls is an affront to freedom of expression,” Amnesty’s Sarah Jackson said after Nyanzi was released. “The continuation of this farcical case blatantly violates Uganda’s constitution.”