Five Kampala bombers sentenced for life
Five out of seven al-Shabab suspects who were convicted on terrorism charges for the 2010 Uganda bomb attacks that resulted in 74 deaths have been sentenced to life. Isa Ahmed Luyima, the mastermind behind the attacks claimed by the al-Shabab militant Islamist group, was also among the five people awarded life sentence. Two others who were found guilty were awarded 50 years imprisonment.
Al-Shabab, which means 'The Youth' in Arabic, is an Islamist militant group that had emerged as the radical youth wing of the Union of Islamic Courts (now defunct) in Somalia. The Union controlled Mogadishu before being driven out by Ethiopian forces in 2006. Several jihadist groups are believed to be supporting al-Shabab. Reportedly, the group's strength is between 7000 and 9000 militants.
On 11 July'10, twin bombings were carried out in Kampala, Uganda as crowds gathered to watch the screening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final. The first attack was carried out at Ethiopian Village restaurant and the second at Kyadondo Rugby Club; the attacks claimed 74 lives and injured over 70. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attacks as retaliation for Uganda's support to AMISOM.
Edris Nsubug, a 31-year-old suspect, was sentenced to three 25-year-sentences concurrently for his alleged involvement in the Kampala attacks. Nsubug was spared the capital punishment as he expressed remorse and indicated that he had taken part in the bombings as he was threatened of decapitation. Muhamoud Mugisha, a 24-year-old suspect, was sentenced to five years in jail for his role in the conspiracy.
In Mar'15, the long overdue trial of 13 suspects, including seven al-Shabab militants, involved in the 2010 Kampala bombing, was brought to the High Court of Kampala. Seven Kenyans, five Ugandans, and one Tanzanian were charged with murder, terrorism, attempted murder and being accessories to terrorism. The case was investigated across East Africa by the FBI before it was brought to court.
The hearings of the case had been delayed for nearly five years as the apprehended individuals challenged the court and accused the Ugandan security agencies and police of illegal rendition and torture.
Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, the trial judge, said that he didn't believe death sentence would deter any such acts. These convictions are reportedly the first of al-Shabab militants outside Somalia. Five other suspects out of 13 were acquitted of murder and terror charges due to lack of evidence while another was convicted after being found guilty of being an accessory to the crime.
The lawyers for the five suspects who were acquitted of charges said that their clients were arrested again and were taken outside Kampala. According to the police authorities, the five acquitted were detained for their own safety.
Reportedly, the prosecution had sought the death sentence–the highest sentence possible for those seven found guilty of terrorism. The prosecution stated that crimes committed by them were pre-mediated and meticulously planned. On the other hand, the defence argued that the suspects were young recruits and vulnerable to brain-washing by al-Shabab. The defence counsel argued that most of the terror convicts were capable of reforming.
Judge Owiny-Dollo explained why he didn't award a death sentence even when he had an option: "I do not think that the death penalty would assuage the victims and give closure to the indelible pain that society has suffered."