8 January 2013

Tanzania: Dar es Salaam Court Conducts Church Torching Case On Site

THE Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam moved a court session to Mbagala to witness the extent of damage at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) that was torched during violence late last year, allegedly causing a loss of 500m/-.

"The pastor's office of the ELCT-Mbagala parish was extensively damaged," Senior State Attorney, Tumaini Kweka told the Principal Resident Magistrate, Waliarwande Lema, as he was leading her to the office at the scene of the crime situated at Mbagala Zakhem.

Earlier, the prosecution read memorandum of facts of the case against 10 people linked with the violence, before asking the court to shift to the church area as was part of exhibits that would be tendered in course of the hearing.

"It is important for the court to move to the crime site and enter into its records what it would see as church owners have failed to do anything, including renovations because of the pending case," the prosecutor said, adding, "this will enable church owners to go on with other activities."

Though the lawyer for the accused, Yahaya Njama, had opposed to the request, Magistrate Lema later on ruled in favour of the prosecution, noting that there was no need of wasting time on the issue as it was decided during previous proceedings and the counsel could not raise any objection at the time.

Other areas at the church the court visited, that were torched and damaged include an altar, wall fence, electrical system, book shelves, wall mirrors, cabinets and iron grills, among others. The prosecution claims that the damaged items are valued at 500m/-.

At the end of the visit, the state attorney told the magistrate, "This is the kind of vandalism we have been talking about during the preliminary hearing before coming here. We now pray to the court to give an order, allowing church owners to go on with other activities, including renovations."

The magistrate granted the request as the counsel for the accused could not raise any objection. Magistrate Lema adjourned the case to January 21, when the prosecution is expected to start calling witnesses.

The accused in the case are Hamad Sekondo, Shego Musa, Mashaka Iman, Hamza Mohamed, Mikidadi Sadik, Juma Mbegu, Issa Abdallah, Hamis Kimwaga, Ramadhan Mbulu and Mohamed Yusuph. Violence that led to the case were allegedly fuelled by two young boys aged below 18 years that were playing and exchanging ideas about religious issues.

It was reported that one of the youths urinated on a Holy book of Muslim (Quran). The matter was reported to the elders and then at Mbagala Police Station for further action.

While legal actions were in progress, a group of people believed to be bandits under the pretext of Muslim devotees, invaded various public and private institutions, including the church, Mbagala parish. Such group at the time was armed with iron bars and blocks, destroyed the fence around the church and entered into the building which was used as a place of worship.

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