The State has taken over the prosecution of Red Pepper editors accused of defaming Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gadaffi when they published stories insinuating that he has a love affair with Toro Queen Mother Best Kemigisha, writes Charles Ariko in The New Vision.

When the case came up at the Buganda Road Court yesterday, state prosecutor Emmanuel Ojambo said the Constitution allows the State to take over the case.

"The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is taking over this case with a view of conducting thorough investigations and prosecuting the case to its logical conclusion," Ojambo said.

The matter was brought to court last week by Muwema, Mugerwa Advocates & Solicitors as private prosecutors on behalf of Abdallah Bujeldain, the secretary (ambassador) of the Libyan Arab People's Bureau in Kampala.

Bujeldain and five officials from the embassy attended the proceedings. James Mugenyi, Toro Kingdom's minister of education and sports, also attended.

Bujeldain said in an affidavit that Gadaffi, the leader of the Revolution of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, was being defamed by the continuous publication of related stories by the Red Pepper newspaper.

Accordingly, Vincent Mugabo, the Buganda Road Court Chief Magistrate, summoned Red Pepper editor-in-chief Richard Tusiime and senior editor Francis Mutazindwa to answer charges of defaming a foreign dignitary with the intention of disturbing the peace between Uganda and Libya.

The Libyan Government was yesterday represented by Allan Shonubi, a city lawyer, assisted by lawyers Edwin Karugire and Fred Muwema.

After Shonubi had informed the court that he was representing Libya, Ojambo asked the editors to step into the dock.

However, their lawyer, Maxim Mutabingwa, caused a stir when he said his clients were not in court in an attempt to prevent them from taking plea.

When the the chief magistrate and private prosecutors insisted the editors were present and should defend themselves, Mutabingwa said they could not because they had protested to the High Court why they were being subjected to a criminal prosecution for a civil case.

Mutabingwa also argued that the charges were misplaced because Gadaffi and Kemigisa had not complained about the publication of the stories. This, he said, made the charge frivolous and vexatious.

"In all the publications which are complained of, the talk is about a relationship between a private person who is not even somebody's wife and another person (Gadaffi)," he said. "It lacks merit whatsoever."

He wondered how a relationship between a man and woman could endanger relations between two countries. "In any case, it would enhance it," he said.

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