Irregularity in Praveen trial curable, court says

THE Court of Appeal has refused to nullify murder proceedings against Indian Vinoth Praveen, who was sentenced to death for killing his friend Abdul Abdalah after failing to get $100,000 or 25kg of gold he demanded from his relatives.

Justices Augustine Mwarija, Sivangilwa Mwangesi and Rehema Mkuye dismissed the invitation by both prosecution and defence on the matter, ruling that the irregularity they had pointed out to warrant the nullification of High Court of Tanzania proceedings was curable.

The irregularity related to the trial judge of the High Court to allow after summing up of evidence to provide a joint opinion on the guilty or otherwise of the accused in respect to the murder charge as per evidence produced.

“Guided by authorities and the applicable position in this case, we find the irregularity is curable. For this reason, we order the hearing of the appeal to proceed on a date to be fixed by the Registrar,” they declared in their ruling.

Praveen allegedly brutally murdered Abdul Basit Abdalah in 2009, pretending he had been kidnapped and demanded $100,000 or 25kg of gold from his relatives.

After the killing, the accused allegedly stuffed the dead body into a bag and abandoned it in a boot of a car at JMALL in Dar es Salaam.

During the appeal, State Attorney Cecilia Mkonongo and defence counsel Melchior Sanga submitted that the High Court had in principle not tried Praveen properly with the aid of assessors.

It was the trial attorney, who rose up first to address the court on the issue, pointing out that what was done by the High Court was against the law, particularly section 265 and 298(1)(2) of the Criminal Procedures Act (CPA).

For his part, the defence counsel was quick to add that the mistake was fuelled by the trial judge himself having allowed the assessors to consult each other to give their joint opinion. In their ruling, however, the justices were of the view that such irregularity in the circumstances of the case was not fatal.

“Although the joint opinion was read by one assessor, other two assessors confirmed that what was read by their fellow assessor was their correct opinion.

The written joint position of the assessors was also filed in court records,” they said. Facts show that the accused and Abdalah were friends and businessmen.

They both lived at Kipata Street in Ilala District, Dar es Salaam. In doing his business, the accused had planned to open a shop for selling electronic equipment.

The accused had no capital, so he borrowed $20,000 from Abdalah. Such amount of money was to be refunded after a year. Two or three months later, Abdalah demanded the money to be repaid with interest.

As the accused could not raise the amount in a short time, he borrowed $5,000 from his father so that he might repay the debt to Abdalah. On February 6, 2009, the accused and Abdalah were seen together during the day time. The accused told Abdalah to go to his residence at night to take some of his money.

At about 11.00pm, the accused was seen coming out of his house with a bag and asked a watchman to assist him to put it in the boot of a car and later drove away.

It is stated that at about the same time, the accused sent messages to Abdalah’s relatives informing them that Abdalah had been kidnapped.

The accused went on to inform Abdalah’s relatives that he would be released after the kidnapers had been given $100,000 or 25kg of gold. Thereafter, the accused drove the car to JMALL Samora Street and packed the same there until it was found by the police on February 8, 2009.

The police opened the boot and found the bag with the dead body with deep wounds on several parts of the body, including the mouth, stomach and the neck.

On February 7, 2009, the accused was arrested at Julius Nyerere International Airport trying to fly to India. He had booked an Emirate flight scheduled for departure at 5.20pm.

He had also a passport issued in his name by the Republic of India.

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