High Court in Kampala has granted bail to a journalist suspected of treason after a year in jail, the Human Rights Network for Journalists has reported.
Augustine Okello, a radio presenter at Rhino FM in Lira district however was remanded to prison after failing to pay the shs8 million cash bail.
This was the third bail application after the previous two attempts were rejected.
He was granted bail due to his worsening health condition which has degenerated since his arrest and detention.
The court presided over by Justice Lameck Mukasa granted the bail application but with stringent conditions ruling that Okello should deposit his land title and passport with the Registrar of the criminal division of the High Court.
He will report to the Lira District Police Commander every Monday and to the Deputy Registrar of the Criminal Division of Lira every third day of the month. His movement beyond Lira Municipality is also restricted unless with explicit permission from the Registrar of Lira High Court.
Okello’s sureties included a businessman Ogwengi Micheal, a teacher Adonyo David, Enyanga Joel a pharmacist at Lira National Referral hospital and Ekol Frank a close family friend.
The HRNJ-Uganda lawyer Duncan Ondimu said this bail was a milestone which would give him more time to prepare for the trial.
“It’s a welcome development. We can now concentrate on the trial itself.” He remarked soon after securing the bail.
Okello was kidnapped on the evening of 13th July 2011 in Lira District under unclear circumstances. He was detained incommunicado for more than two weeks and only produced after Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) filed for habeas corpus at the High Court in Lira. He was later presented to Buganda Road court.
He is the second journalist from Northern Uganda to be charged with treason after Mega FM’s Otim Patrick who was kidnapped in a similar way.
Otim has since been acquitted of the charges along with 13 other suspects. Okello was charged with treason last year in August and committed to trial in the High Court in January 2012.
“HRNJ-Uganda welcomes this development and commends the court for exercising its mandate. We believe that Okello is innocent, but only a victim of persecution. We appeal to the court to hear and dispose of this matter expeditiously.” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.