UPDATED: Further Statement on the Status of Mr. Robert Shaka
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(June 12, 2015 / Kampala, Uganda)
Having been detained at the Special Investigations Unit headquarters (SIU) for more than 48 hours without being granted a police bond and being produced in court, Mr. Shaka’s lawyers applied for his unconditional release on June 10, 2015.
On June 11, 2015, at 9.00am in the morning, the Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s court granted an order for the unconditional release of Mr. Shaka. The order was then served to the police.
Instead of releasing Mr. Shaka as ordered by court, the police, at about 4.30pm, stealthily whisked him to Buganda Road Court. They denied his request to call his lawyer before leaving SIU. He was produced before the Buganda Road Court and charged with the offence of “offensive communication” under section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act.
The police alleges that Mr. Shaka, “disguising himself as Tom Voltaire Okwalinga (TVO), between 2011 and 2015, willfully and repeatedly using a computer, with no purpose of legitimate communication, disturbed the right of privacy of President Museveni by posting statements as regards to his health condition on social media, to wit, Facebook”.
Mr. Shaka denied these charges before the magistrate and alerted the court that the proceedings were in contempt of the Nakawa Magistrate’s Court order for his immediate and unconditional release. He also applied to be granted a non-cash bail, pending the hearing of the case.
Mr. Shaka also applied for full disclosure and clear particulars of the offense in order for him to prepare his defense. The Buganda Road Chief Magistrate declined to deliver a ruling on the applications made and remanded Mr. Shaka to Luzira, Murchison’s Bay Prison.
He will appear again at the Buganda Road Magistrates Court for a ruling of his application on Monday June 15th at 11am.
We continue to protest his innocence and draw attention to the willful disregard by the police of a lawfully obtained court order for his unconditional release. We believe that Mr. Shaka is being unfairly treated by the police and is being willfully framed by his accusers. We have faith that the justice system will uphold his fundamental rights to freedom of expression. We thank his supporters for the outpouring of support.
Mr. Shaka’s case will be a test of the commitment of the state of Uganda to uphold the freedom of expression, especially for the users of new media. The case is a water-shade moment for online communication.
(June 10, 2015 / Kampala, Uganda)
On the morning of Monday June 8, 2015, in the wee hours of the morning, a group of about 10 police officers from the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) intercepted and arrested Mr. Robert Shaka as he left his home in Kyaliwajala, a Kampala suburb for work.
Mr. Shaka was then taken to the SIU headquarters in Kireka where he was told he was under arrest. Later in the day, the police sought to administer a charge and caution statement, at which point the reasons for his arrest became clear, namely;
- That using computers and other electronic devices, he issued offensive communications against the sovereign state of Uganda, bringing it into hatred and contempt and accordingly committing the offence of promotion of sectarianism contrary to Section 41 of the Penal Code Act.
- That using computers and other electronic devices, he issued offensive communication against President Yoweri Museveni, Janet Museveni, Kale Kayihura, a one "Mbabazi" and a one "Kelen" thereby committing the offence of offensive communication contrary to Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act.
Mr. Shaka's arrest followed the broadcasting on Sunday June 7, 2015, of an interview he gave to a local television station, NTV Uganda, two months ago. In that interview, Mr. Shaka highlighted the persistent harassment he was enduring in the hands of security personnel on allegations that he was the social media personality who goes by the names "Tom Voltaire Okwalinga (TVO).
Since February 2015, Mr. Shaka had been reporting, without fail, to the CIID headquarters, particularly to the media offence unit, that had granted him police bond as it investigated the allegations against him.
Mr. Shaka's home had also been searched in February and a laptop computer, an iPad and several flash disks had been confiscated by the police. These items have since been returned since they were properties of Mr. Shaka's employer.
As Mr. Shaka remains in detention, without access to any form of electronic gadgetry, the said TVO continues to operate his/her social media account embarrassingly exposing the baselessness of the police accusations and premise for his arrest.
We are writing to re-assure the general public that Mr. Shaka is detained at SIU Kireka and he is in good health. Mr. Shaka is a prisoner of conscience and will prove his innocence in a court of law if so charged. Mr. Shaka's social media accounts are well known and do not appear under any pseudo name as the police alleges. His unceremonious arrest and detention represents an affront to the freedom of expression for all Ugandans especially those using new media platforms to express their views and opinions.
We would like to thank his friends, colleagues and relatives for the continued show of support. Mr. Shaka remains unmoved and his resolve to speaking his mind as candidly as he has always done is unshaken.