Court orders release of six people jailed for practicing witchcraft acts

RUKWA: THE High Court Sumbawanga Registry has ordered for the immediate release of six Nkasi residents who were convicted and imprisoned for five years each for conspiracy to commit arson and practicing witchcraft acts.

Along with Silvanus Siwaloza, other appellants were Wilbroad Edward alias Masenga, Helena Matengo, Richard Chakupewa, John Anastazio alias Sumuni and Linus Sangu alias Sikanda.

Justice Abubakar Mrisha decided against allowing the appeal lodged by all six appellants to challenge the verdict and sentence given on November 8, 2022, at Nkasi District Court in Criminal Case No. 187 of 2022.

“I nullify the entire proceedings before the trial court, quash the convictions, and set aside sentences passed thereto by the trial court,” he ruled.

He added, “Having nullified the proceedings of the trial court, quashed convictions, and set aside sentences, I now order for the appellants’ immediate release from prison custody if they are not otherwise being lawfully held. It is so ordered.”

The judge claimed that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine the case involving witchcraft against the appellants due to the lack of consent of the Zonal State Attorney in Charge.

“Since the consent of the attorney is a prerequisite requirement to be complied with before the trial begins, and the trial court proceeded with the hearing and determination of the appellant’s case in the absence of the consent of the attorney or the Zonal State Attorney in Charge, as prescribed under Section 5(3) of the Act, it is my considered opinion that the trial court could not assume jurisdiction for trying the offence involving witchcraft without obtaining such consent because, by doing so, the proceedings of the trial court were nullity.”

Before the trial court, the appellants were jointly charged with two counts before the District Court of Nkasi, namely arson contrary to section 319(a) of the Penal Code [Cap 16 R.E. 2019] (now 2022) and conspiracy to commit an offence contrary to section 384 of the Penal Code.

In the first count, the particulars of the offence were that on November 4, 2022, at Mlambo village within Mkasi District in Rukwa Region, the appellants willfully and unlawfully set fire to the house of Deus Sebasi, alias Kalikish, and caused damage to different properties, including one house valued at 2m/-, the properties of Kalikish.

In the second count, the particulars of the offence were that on the aforementioned date and place, the appellants did conspire to commit an offence of practicing witchcraft acts.

Initially, in the case handled by the trial court, there were 15 accused persons, who were jointly and together charged with the two counts.

The rest of the accused persons pleaded not guilty, which is why their names do not appear in the appeal.

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