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Ugandan Activist Stella Nyanzi Appeals Against Conviction, Sentence

Incarcerated controversial Ugandan academic has appealed to the High Court challenging her conviction and sentence.

Dr Stella Nyanzi, a Makerere University Research fellow, was earlier this month sentenced to 18 months in prison for cyber-harassment.

She, however, is expected to serve for nine months as she had spent a similar duration in remand.

Nonetheless, in her appeal, Nyanzi argues that the court did not have the jurisdiction and that she allowed the charge that was incurably defective, unacceptably vague and barred by law.

She wants the conviction quashed and the punishment set aside on grounds that the magistrate passed an illegal and disproportionate sentence.

“That the learned trial magistrate erred in law and fact when she failed to accord to the appellant the necessary facilities to compel the attendance of witnesses, and thereby infringed on the appellant’s right to a fair hearing,” reads the court document.

Dr Nyanzi further adds that the trial magistrate erred in law and fact, when she refused to facilitate the compulsory attendance and examination of a defense witness after he had absconded from court.

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She states that the failure of the court to compel the witness infringed on her right to fair hearing.

“The learned trial magistrate committed a grave procedural irregularity when she deprived the appellant of the right to address the court after the close of the defense case and in reply or opposition to the written submissions of the prosecution which were concealed from the appellant,” she states.

Dr Nyanzi says the magistrate failed to properly evaluate the evidence on record, thereby arriving at a wrong decision in convicting the appellant of cyber harassment.

She alleges that the magistrate contravened Article 28(5) of the 1995 Constitution, Section 123 of the Magistrates Court Act, and the Judicature (Visual-Audio Link) Rules (2016) when she conducted proceedings on August 2, 2019 via Visual-Audio Link.

Dr Nyanzi was found guilty of disturbing the peace of President Yoweri Museveni and his late mother Ms Esteri Kokundeka in a Facebook post.

She was, however, acquitted of offensive communication.

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