KAMPALA, Uganda, MARCH 26, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Two Ugandan soldiers, sentenced to death for the murder of an Irish priest and two of his helpers, were tried and executed Monday. The Mill Hill Missionaries condemned the executions.
Missionary sources told ZENIT that the executions were public. Corporal James Omediyo and soldier Abdullah Mohammed were court-martialed and pronounced guilty of killing Father Declan O´Toole, 31, missionary of the Mill Hill congregation, last Thursday.
The priest´s driver Patrick Longoli and parish employee Fidele Longole were also killed in an attack on a road between Kotido and Moroto. Father O´Toole´s parish was in the district of Kotida, in the Karamoja region.
Witnesses of the Misna missionary agency said that the two soldiers were hooded, tied to trees, and executed in the presence of 1,000 people.
A Ugandan army spokesman said the two soldiers carried out the crime on their own initiative, and that the armed forces were not involved as an institution. Another army source told a news service that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and high-level officials were consulted before the executions.
In a statement, the Mill Hill Missionaries criticized the way the murder trial was conducted.
“Whilst expressing their satisfaction at the UPDF´s (Ugandan Army) desire to see justice done, the Mill Hill Missionaries wish to convey their extreme unease at the manner in which the trial was conducted and the hasty fashion in which the sentence was carried out,” the statement says. “This manner of action can only fuel the growing suspicion that a full investigation was to be forestalled.”
The Misna agency noted that previously the missionary was threatened and beaten by members of the army.
Father O´Toole was born Feb. 2, 1971, in Headford, in Galway, Ireland. Ordained a priest in 1997, he was sent to Karamoja on his first mission.
The Mill Hill statement said: “Fr. Declan O´Toole got increasingly involved in promoting peace and reconciliation in this violent region. … When recently he witnessed a glaring example of army brutality in the village of Nakapelimoru — part of the parish of Panyang´ara where he served — he himself was beaten by one soldier and ridiculed by others. This prompted him to lodge a strong protest with the local commander and to inform the Irish Embassy in Kampala.”