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US Couple Living In Uganda Facing Charges That Carry Possibility of Death Penalty

An American couple living in Uganda have been charged with abuse of a minor and torturing their foster child, of which at least one of the charges carries a possible death sentence penalty.

A Ugandan state prosecutor told a court in Kampala on Wednesday that they should be considered a flight risk, and asked the court to deny bond. The couple’s lawyer requested they should be granted bail on medical grounds.

Nicholas Spencer and his wife, Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer, both 32, pleaded not guilty to the charges that they tortured the 10-year-old boy in their care while living in a Kampala suburb. Reports state that the boy attends a special needs school and is HIV-positive. Both been remanded in custody since last Friday. The couple’s lawyer Leila Saaliwulide claims both defendants had ailments requiring care which could not be given in prison. Prosecutor Keko countered that no ailment that could not be treated in prison.

“They have no community or family ties in Uganda, and the offense with which they are charged currently is of grave nature attracting a penalty of life imprisonment, therefore their likelihood to abscond from bail is really, really high,” prosecutor Joan Keko told the court.

Magistrate Sarah Tumusiime ruled that the couple should remain in jail until she decides on their bail application.

The court imposed the charges of aggravated torture, and added the charge of aggravated child trafficking based on allegations of their conduct with the minor identified as John Kayima. If convicted, the latter charge carries a possible death penalty punishment.

The arrest came after police followed a tip from neighbors. Police allege that the couple subjected the child to several forms of torture including making him squat in an awkward position, kept the boy barefoot and naked throughout the day, fed him only cold meals and forced him to sleep on a wooden platform without a mattress or bedding.

Reports state that Spencer and his wife moved to Uganda in 2017 for humanitarian work. One year later they began fostering three children, including the alleged victim from the Welcome Ministry in Jinja City. A state prosecutors in Uganda reported that the couple were in Uganda illegally on expired work permits.

The US Embassy in Kampala said they are aware of the arrest and detention of two US citizens and was currently monitoring the situation. They declined to comment regarding the couple’s latest charge and potential death penalty.

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