THE Kisutu Resident Magistrates’ Court in Dar es Salaam has turned down a request by nine senior officials with Chadema for having three weeks to prepare for their defence against sedition charges they are facing.
According to Principal Resident Magistrate Thomas Simba, the officials, including the main opposition party’s national chairman Freeman Mbowe, have only two weeks as the hearing of their defence is scheduled for November 4, 2019.
The session will be held in three consecutive working days.
In addition to that, the magistrate directed the hearing to be conducted in sessions to expedite the defence process considering a big number of witnesses, who are expected to testify.
More than 200 witnesses are set to enter the witness box for the defence. Defence counsel Peter Kibatala requested the court to avail to him a copy of a video tape showing how the accused committed offences they are charged with.
In his ruling, however, the magistrate rejected the request. Instead, he directed the accused to use court facilities to view the tape under the supervision of the court administrator to avoid any tempering with exhibits and any possible damage during playing of the video tape.
Before delivering the ruling, the defence counsel requested the court to allow them to start calling other independent witnesses first and thereafter his clients would give their own defence.
However, the prosecution led by Principal State Attorneys Faraja Nchimbi and Zainabu Mango, as well as State Attorney Jacqueline Nyantori were opposed to such a proposed procedure, arguing that it was neither backed by the practice nor provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act and Law of Evidence Act.
Thus, the magistrate agreed with the prosecution that: “It is a common practice that the accused once found with a case to answer is to start giving own defence. I don’t see any injustice for the accused to start their testimony first before parading other witnesses.”
He pointed out that the defence counsel had not convinced the court why it should depart from such a long time practice. Other accused are Chadema Secretary-General Vicent Mashinji, Deputy Secretary General (Mainland) John Mnyika and his Zanzibar counterpart Salum Mwalimu.
The rest are Peter Msigwa (MP for Iringa Urban), Halima Mdee (MP for Kawe), John Heche (MP for Tarime Rural), Ester Bulaya (MP for Bunda Urban) and Ester Matiko (MP for Tarime Urban).
Defence hearing comes after the court found the accused with a case to answer on all 13 counts of conspiracy to commit offences, unlawful assembly, rioting after proclamation, raising discontent and ill-will for unlawful purposes, sedition and inciting the commission of offences.
The magistrate ruled that the prosecution sufficiently established a prima facie case requiring the accused to enter their defence evidence against the charges allegedly committed between February 1 and 16, 2018 in the city.
It is alleged that on February 16, 2018 along Kawawa Road at Mkwajuni, being assembled with intent to carry out a common purpose, jointly and together, all accused conducted themselves in such a manner as to cause a fear of breach of the peace.
The prosecution claimed that on the same day and place, with more than 12 other persons not in court, having riotously assembled, in disobedience of the proclamation given by a police officer, the accused failed to disperse and continued to take part in the riot.
Thereby, according to the prosecution, the accused breached the peace and terrified members of the public, culminating in the death of National Institute of Transport (NIT) student Akwilina Akwiline Baftaa and the injury of two police officers, Police Constable Fikiri and Corporal Rahim Msangi.
According to the prosecution, on the same day at Buibui grounds, while addressing Kinondoni residents at a public meeting, Mbowe, Mdee and Heche made statements likely to raise discontent and promote feelings of ill-will among the inhabitants of the United Republic of Tanzania.
The prosecution alleged further that Mbowe, in related offences, made seditious statements with the intention of bringing hatred and contempt to the citizens of the United Republic of Tanzania against the lawful authority of the government.
It is alleged further that on the same day at Buibui grounds, Mbowe, Msigwa and Bulaya with other persons who were not in court, jointly incited the residents of Kinondoni District in the city to commit the offences of unlawful assembly, going armed in public and rioting.