15 February 2013

Tanzania: Security Enhanced As Ponda Case Comes Up for Mention

Photo: The Daily News
Alleged followers of Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda distance themselves with him in court (file photo).

THE police enhanced security at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam, when a case involving the Secretary General of the Council of Islamic Organization, Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda, came for mention.

It was not a lucky day for alleged supporters of the Muslim leader, as they could not even have a sight of him as was the case in the previous court session. As if that was not enough, the police denied access to Ponda 'followers', who flocked a building adjacent the court, to enter the compound.

Ponda was brought to the court premises early in the morning under heavy escort of prison officers and the police. He was quickly taken into the courtroom where he appeared before Resident Magistrate Stuart Sanga, for mentioning and later escorted to a prison van, back to his Segerea cell.

After the court session, the magistrate ordered the accused to be brought back before the court on February 18, when hearing of the case would resume. The law enforcers fully armed with tear gas canisters and other gear remained at the court premises to maintain security while over six police dogs were also there patrolling the compound.

Few minutes later, after Ponda had left the court's building, a group of people believed to be his supports assembled at the entrance, complaining bitterly over the move to deny them the chance to know what had happened during the court proceedings.

"This is not justice at all. Why are they (police) denying us to go inside? They will see us on Friday," one shouted from the crowd. Such statements appear to go against a call from Muslim leaders, who have appealed to their members not to take part into planned demonstrations on Friday.

A section of Muslim believers have threatened to stage some demonstrations towards the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to oppose his decision of filing a certificate, objecting bail to Sheikh Ponda, on grounds of public interests.

In the case, Sheikh Ponda and his 49 co-accused are charged with conspiracy, trespass and criminal possession of property owned by Agritanza Limited on a plot situated at Markaz, Chang'ombe, in Temeke District.

Other charges, according to the prosecution, include stealing building materials from Agritanza Limited including 1,500 bricks and 36 tonnes of aggregate and iron bars, all worth 59.6m/-. The offences are alleged to have been committed on October 12, last year.

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