By Halima Athumani
KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) - Uganda High Court Judge Alphonse Owinyi Dollo Friday sentenced five men for a notorious July 2010 terror bombing, which left 76 people dead and scores injured, to life in prison.
The judge also sentenced two others to 50 years in prison on counts of terrorism, murder, and attempted murder.
Reading out his sentence, he described the act of indiscriminate terrorism as “the most repugnant,” saying it “cannot be justified by whatever cause.”
He added, “The 76 victims that lost their lives on the 11th of July 2010 had nothing to do with the deployment of the UPDF [Uganda People's Defence Force] in Somalia, yet some were not even concerned with the deployment.”
During the trial, the court heard that the main reason for the attack was to intimidate and compel Uganda to withdraw its troops from the AMISOM Mission in Somalia fighting against Al-Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Justice Alphonse added that the grave act of terrorism invites severe punishment but declined to sentence them to death, saying, “I don’t think the death sentence will heal the pain society has suffered.”
In light of the role each man played, he sentenced Hussein Hassan Agad, Idris Magondu, Isa Luyima, Habib Suleiman Njoroge, and Muhammed Ali Muhhamed to life in prison.
Luyima, a Ugandan citizen, was named as the mastermind and coordinator of the attack, which was claimed by the al-Shabaab militant group.
Hassan Haruna Luyima and Suleiman Hajir Nyamadondo were sentenced to 50 years in prison.
The court acquitted six other suspects due to a lack of evidence.
Earlier, State Prosecutor Lino Anguzu had pleaded with the court to sentence all the convicts to death. He argued that they had engaged in “the rarest of the rarest cases that was meticulously premeditated, planned, and executed from 2009 to July 2010.”
He added that they put in “considerable resources when they rented houses, bought mobile phones, and hired special vehicles to transport the explosives from Nairobi to Kampala, surveyed suitable areas to hit, and identified targets to have a maximum impact.”
Linofurther urged the court, “To look at how the attack was planned and its impact, those who died never got a second chance or to appeal.”
Defense lawyer Caleb Alaka disagreed, telling the court, “At the time of the act, these were young people at a vulnerable age that could easily be brainwashed by religious ideologies.”
He urged the court to sentence them to incarceration, saying this was a more fitting punishment than death.
Earlier in the day the judge sentenced Luyima Muzafar to community service for four hours, twice a week, for a full year. He was found guilty of being an accessory after the crime, which is punishable by three years in prison. But since he was arrested in 2010, he has already spent six years in jail.
The blasts went off at the Kyadondo Rugby Club and Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kampala, where revelers were watching the 2010 World Cup.
The case, which lasted five years, heard that a Somali national detonated the bomb at the club, while a Kenyan national detonated the explosive at the restaurant.
During investigations that spread to Kenya and Tanzania, 20 people were arrested and charged. However, some suspects were released due to lack of evidence.
This left 13 suspects charged with 76 counts of murder, 10 counts of attempted murder, and two counts of being an accessory to terrorism. Seven out of these 13 were convicted Thursday.
Two suspects, Muhamood Mugisha and Edris Nsubuga, had earlier “voluntarily” pleaded guilty to participating in the bombings and are serving 25-year sentences.
In 2011, through their lawyers, the suspects from Kenya and Tanzania stalled their trial for two years when they petitioned at the Constitutional Court, challenging their extraditions to Uganda. They also claimed torture by intelligence officers from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, the U.K., and the U.S. The case was later dismissed in October 2014.
Some of the alleged torture methods included being forced to confess at gunpoint, tongue piercing, genital abuse, and forced pork product consumption.
When the case resumed in 2015, it again stalled for over two months after the murder of the case lead prosecutor, Joan Kagezi, who was gunned down by unknown assailants.
During the trial, the state presented a total of 82 witnesses, including security operatives, survivors of the attacks, FBI agents, and Tanzanian and Kenyan detectives.