U.K. Court Says Publisher's Multi-million Dollar Case Against Gen. Museveni Still Active

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[Black Star News Investigates]

The case involving a former publisher who says Uganda's dictator Yoweri K. Museveni seized his newspaper is still active and is on appeal, contrary to Uganda media reports, The Black Star News has learned.

Uganda's government-owned newspaper, The New Vision, reported that Gen. Museveni had finally "won" the long drawn case last month. A former Uganda-born publisher, who now lives in Britain, had been awarded in 2007 millions of dollars in compensation by a British Court when Gen. Museveni failed to appear in court or to timely file a defense.

Since then, there has been a ping-pong game, with each side claiming victory against the other at various stages.

A U.K. court official has confirmed that the case is pending on appeal. The notice of appeal by the former publisher's representatives was dated November 4, 2011 and the appeal filed November 11.

The judgment against Gen. Museveni, including interest, has ballooned to £57 million or about $86 million. The former publisher, Dr. Jesse Mashate, claimed his newspaper, The Weekend Digest, was wrongfully seized and shut down by the Museveni regime in 1986, soon after he took power in Uganda.

Contacted by telephone by The Black Star News, Joseph Tamale Mirundi, who previously had questioned whether a British Court had jurisdiction over a Ugandan president wasn't so forthcoming with a reaction this time. “Mashate’s case involves the government, so I’m not the right person to comment,” the president's spokesman said.

When asked about the millions in accumulated interest, Mirundi said, “I’m not Museveni’s lawyer to know why the amount of money involved accumulate.” He also added, “I have to look for Museveni first before I can comment.”

“The President’s office is not like a headmaster’s office. I am a highly trained journalist, I know you journalist what you want,” Mirundi concluded before hanging up.

People familiar with the case said Dr. Mashate would not be making any comments since the case is pending.

On November 21, The New Vision, under the headline "Museveni Wins Law Suit in London Court," reported that the British Court of Justice had ordered Mashate to "stop making false claims against President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni."

The New Vision
also reported that, "The court was dismissing a case in which Mashate had obtained a default judgment with orders compelling President Museveni to pay £57m (about sh232.6b) including accumulated interest from 2010 as compensation to him (Mashate) for loss of business. The court also refused Mashate permission to appeal against its orders. In the November 4 ruling, Justice Seymour, QC, also rejected Mashate's request to appeal against his judgment."

Contradicting The New Vision's report, a High Court official said the case was pending at the Court of Appeal.

A legal expert who reviewed the court papers said, “Under English law, there is no provision barring legal proceedings against a so called head of state of a friendly country. Were UK courts to uphold such a ruling, they would risk Britain being taken to the European Court of Justice for contravention of the Dr. Jesse Mashate’s judicial rights. Britain would be made to pay Dr. Jesse Mashate all what General Yoweri Museveni Kaguta owed him since Mashate would have been denied justice on the basis of political expedience..."

After suing Gen. Museveni in the UK Commercial High court in London, Dr. Mashate was originally awarded £18.6 million, which was about $31 million at the time. Through Uganda's attorney general, Gen. Museveni later moved for the default judgment to be set aside.

In one earlier episode in this saga, The Black Star News reported that Uganda officials may have filed forged documents in an attempt to void a default judgment against Gen. Museveni.

Miwambo reports for The Black Star News from Europe.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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