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Lira Scribes Fundraise to Bail Out Jailed Colleague

Journalists in Lira have initiated a fundraising drive to collect 8 million shillings to bail out their colleague, Augustine Okello, who has been in prison over charges of treason since his arrest last year.
Journalists in Lira have initiated a fundraising drive to collect 8 million shillings to bail out their colleague, Augustine Okello, who has been in prison over charges of treason since his arrest last year.

 

Okello, commonly known as Rouks, was kidnapped on the evening of July 13, 2011 in Lira town under unclear circumstances. He was later detained incommunicado for weeks and only produced in court after several media reports about his disappearance, which led Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda to file for a court order at the High Court in Lira, although he was later produced at Buganda Road Court in Kampala.

 

After several bail applications since last year, Okello was on Wednesday produced before the High Court in Kampala, where he was finally granted cash bail of 8 million shillings. He was however returned to prison after his sureties failed to raise the money.

 

As a result, his colleagues and friends met in Lira town on Friday, to draw strategies to raise the required amount fast so as to get him out of prison. Ronald Odongo, Okello’s former workmate at Radio Rhino, said a meeting was convened at Pacific Grand Hotel in Lira town attended by journalists and friends to mobilize the money. He said the meeting resolved a weeklong fundraising that will also be conducted on all the seven local radio stations in the town to mobilize money from the public.

 

Odongo said they also resolved to dedicate a telephone number 0772 000 199 for well-wishers who may want to send their contributions through mobile money.

 

Kenneth Okello, the manager of Radio Rhino where Okello was a programs presenter before his arrest, has said they hope to welcome Okello back and restore him in his position as long as he is cleared by the court.

 

Okello is expected to deposit his land title and passport with the Registrar of the criminal division of the High Court, according to the conditions of his bail, which Justice Lameck Mukasa spelt out.

 

He is also expected to report to the Lira District Police Commander every Monday and to the Deputy Registrar of the Criminal Division of Lira every third day of the month. Meanwhile, his movement beyond Lira Municipality is also restricted except with explicit permission from the Registrar of Lira High Court.

 

Besides collecting the bail money, Okello’s colleagues and friends in Lira say they also plan to organize a welcome party as part of the reunion. Okello’s release follows the acquittal last month of another journalist, Patrick Otim, a freelance reporter who, like Okello was also kidnapped, charged with treason but got acquitted after spending four years in prison.

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