Imprisoned Ugandan activist Stella Nyanzi has moved to court to challenge her recent conviction and sentence.
The former Makerere University lecturer was slapped with 18 months in prison on August 2 for referring to President Yoweri Museveni as a “pair of buttocks.”
The ruling was delivered by Buganda Road Court Grade one Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu Musenze.
In her appeal filed at the High Court, 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.
According to reports by the Daily Monitor, the activist now wants the conviction quashed and the punishment set aside on grounds that the magistrate passed an illegal and unproportionate 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,” the Ugandan media quotes court document.
Further, Nyanzi argues that the magistrate erred in law and fact when she failed to facilitate the attendance of the defence witness during her sentencing.
“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.
She faults the trial magistrate for failing to evaluate evidence on record, hence, wrongly convicting her over cybercrime offence.
Nyanzi attended the August sentencing via a video link, and was acquitted of one of the charges of offensive communication. The charge was based on a poem she wrote which was considered vulgar by Ugandan authorities.
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 via Visual-Audio Link.
Nyanzi has been detained in jail since November 2018, and Amnesty International wants the ruling overturned saying that it kills the freedom of expression in Uganda.
Several humanitarian groups and colleagues continue to condemn her sentence by Ugandan authorities using the hashtag #freestellanyanzi.