1 January 2013

Tanzania: Ponda Seeks Bail, Witness Wanted for Contempt

THE defence counsel for the Secretary General of the Council of Islamic Organization, Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda, has requested the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to revoke his certificate filed at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam, for objection of bail to their client.

"We sent a letter with reference number LJ/CC/245/2012 for our request to the DPP on December 24, last year," advocate Juma Nassoro, one of the lawyers defending Ponda in the case, said yesterday in the city.

He told reporters at the court premises shortly after adjournment of Ponda's case that there was no justification at the moment the accused should not be granted bail, considering the nature of evidence so far presented by witnesses in court.

"Of (three) prosecution witnesses called, none of them has testified that there has been breach of peace, which was the bases for the DPP to file his certificate. After all, Ponda faces similar charges with his co-accused who are out on bail," the counsel stressed.

The DPP, Eliezer Feleshi, could not be reached for comment on the matter. He had objected to bail the Muslim cleric after filing a certificate under the National Security Act. Ponda was subsequently denied bail, while his 49 co- accused were bailed out on conditions of securing sureties working in a recognized institution, who later signed bonds of 1m/-.

In Monday's session, the prosecution had planned to call three more witnesses, but none of them showed up. Senior State Attorney Tumaini Kweka told presiding Magistrate Victoria Nongwa that one of the summoned witnesses was sick and the other had travelled.

He pointed out, however, that the third witness could not give any notice of his failure to attend the hearing session. The magistrate issued a warrant of arrest to the third witness for his failure to heed the court summons. The case has been set for another hearing on January 17, this year.

Ponda and his followers are accused of committing crimes of conspiracy, trespassing and criminal possession of property owned by Agritanza Limited at Chang'ombe in Temeke municipality. Other charges include stealing of building materials from Agritanza limited including 1,500 bricks and 36 tonnes of aggregate and iron bars, all worth 59.6m/-.

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