- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

Bad check charged

The husband of Ugandan Ambassador Edith Ssempala was in a Massachusetts jail yesterday, facing forgery, check fraud and larceny charges.

Patrick Ssempala, 48, was arrested Tuesday in the Boston suburb of Wellesley, where he had been living for the past year, said Deputy Police Chief Bill Brooks.

He was charged with forging a check made out to him for $22,000 that he deposited in his personal account at a branch office of the FleetBoston bank.

The bank later discovered that the check had originally been written for $125 and issued to a business, police said.

By that time, however, Mr. Ssempala had wired $17,000 to a bank account in Europe and spent the rest, police said.

He was arrested as he returned to the bank branch.

Chief Brooks said Mr. Ssempala did not claim diplomatic immunity when he was arrested. He was carrying an expired diplomatic passport and identification card.

Chief Brooks said police contacted the State Department, which said Mr. Ssempala did not have diplomatic immunity because his documents were expired.

The department's protocol office was to have notified the Ugandan Embassy of his arrest, Chief Brooks said. The embassy could not be reached for comment last night.

Mr. Ssempala was being held in lieu of a $10,000 bond.

"This is very unusual for us," Chief Brooks said.

The town, the home of Wellesley College, is used to having diplomats visit, but they rarely cause any problems, he said. They do not even commit traffic offenses.

"They usually have drivers," Chief Brooks said.

Countersuing Moi?

A Kenyan newspaper yesterday raised the intriguing possibility that former U.S. Ambassador Smith Hempstone could countersue Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi over a defamation suit Mr. Moi filed against Mr. Hempstone.

The Daily Nation said Mr. Moi sacrificed his constitutional immunity against legal actions by filing his lawsuit.

On Monday, Mr. Moi sued Mr. Hempstone over a passage in his book, "Rogue Ambassador," in which he repeated claims that Mr. Moi was responsible for the 1990 murder of Foreign Minister Robert Ouko, whose tortured and burnt body was found on a farm outside the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Mr. Hempstone, ambassador to Kenya from 1989 to 1993, yesterday declined to comment on the lawsuit. He is also a former executive editor of The Washington Times.

The Daily Nation quoted Kenyan libel lawyer Githu Muigai as calling Mr. Moi's action "an unwise move."

"The worst-case scenario for [Mr. Moi] would be for Mr. Hempstone to enter an appearance and then demand to get particulars on the case," Mr. Muigai said.

"[Mr. Moi] would be exposed to questions related to issues he has raised in his complaint. He would have to appear in the dock and answer questions regarding his presidency, his perception of the injury to his reputation and standing in society, as well as other issues."

Even if Mr. Hempstone ignores the lawsuit and Mr. Moi wins by default, his chances of collecting damages are remote, U.S. lawyers said.

American courts are reluctant to enforce foreign defamation judgments because U.S. libel law is so strict.

In the United States, plaintiffs must prove that the material is not only false but also that the defendant displayed a "reckless disregard for the truth."

U.S. judges have even refused to enforce judgments from English courts. In Kenya, the authoritarian president exerts significant control over the judiciary, according to the State Department.

Irish support

President Bush's choice for an ambassador to Ireland has picked up some support from two key Democrats who care passionately about the Emerald Isle.

Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut endorsed Massachusetts businessman Richard J. Egan, following his confirmation hearing this week.

"I believe Mr. Egan will do an effective job," said Mr. Kennedy. Jean Kennedy Smith, a sister of Mr. Kennedy, served as ambassador to Ireland under President Clinton.

The Senate is expected to consider the nomination this week.

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