After one year and one month on remand, first in Masaka Central Prison and later briefly at Luzira Murchison Bay Prison, Berhnard Bery Glasser, 73, succumbed to diabetes and cancer on May 7. A day before, the German national, had been arraigned in the High Court in Kampala for bail hearing while prostrate and stock-still.
His cancer, said to be stage-four, according to medical records, had disfigured—almost torn off—the left side of his face. While on remand, he received treatment both at Murchison Bay and Uganda Cancer Institute, records show, but his condition kept deteriorating.
His May 6 appearance in court for bail before Justice Moses Kazibwe was the twelveth. The application last July by his lawyers, Evans Ochieng, Caleb Alaka and Lester Kaganzi, for bail to seek treatment was dismissed by the then Masaka High Court resident Judge Winfred Nabisinde, who instead offered a speedy trial, which never took off.
During a hearing in July, lawyers argued that the accused had been granted bail in 2013, when he was first arraigned in court for the same charges, by the then Justice Margaret Oguli Oumo, the deputy head of the Anti-Corruption, however, Justice Nabisinde argued that she was not at all bound by the former’s decision. The judge directed prison authorities to accord the accused the treatment he needs.
Justice Nabisinde stated that there was need to balance the rights of both the accused and the accusers. Three months earlier, in April, Bery had been charged before the same court on 27 counts; 15 for aggravated child trafficking, and nine for defilement. He was also charged for illegally operating a shelter for indigent girls in Mwena Village, in Kalangala District. He pleaded not guilty.
After the July hearing, a tense atmosphere engulfed the Bery trial in Masaka court as the defence lawyers maintained that a sick person cannot stand the speedy trial proposed by the judge. In October, Justice Nabisinde dismissed the second bail application. Consequently, a week later, she wrote to the former Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine recusing herself from the case.
The case subsequently transferred to the High Court in Kampala, where it stalled over several procedural matters, until May 6 when a bail hearing was arranged but the accused died a day later.
While the Masaka High Court, at the insistence of the prosecution, maintained that the accused access treatment from prison, the Uganda Cancer Institute executive director, Dr Jackson Oryem, according to correspondences seen by Daily Monitor, in December had advised the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that though the accused situation had stabilised at the time, Bery suffered from a “clinically progressive disease” that required advanced treatment abroad.
Late last month, prisons authorities wrote to the Principal Judge and DPP noting that Bery had been discharged from the Uganda Cancer Institute as his condition could no longer been managed there, and yet several attempts by his lawyers to get him bail had been in vain.
“The cancerous wound on his cheek has got worse and his health condition is dangerously deteriorating,” a letter, appended with medical documents from the deceased’s doctors in Belgium, from prisons authorities, noted.
“Our concern is that the accused could easily die,” the letter added.