Tanzania: Sureties in Tundu Lissu Criminal Trail Opt to Withdraw

THE two sureties, who bailed out Singida East Member of Parliament (MP) Tundu Lissu in a criminal trial, broke their silence yesterday, threatening to withdraw their security bonds, for lack of cooperation from the outspoken opposition leader.

However, the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam pinned them over Lissu's total absence without any explanations and, thus, demanded sufficient accounts on his whereabouts, and why he was not attending the court sessions. "The court records are silent on this matter. It is the duty of the sureties to inform the court on the whereabouts of the accused.

The case has stalled because the accused (Lissu) is not here. We need sufficient explanations on this aspect," Principal Resident Magistrate Thomas Simba directed. In the yesterday's proceedings, the two sureties, Ibrahim Hamadi and Robert Katula, appeared before the court to give some accounts on Lissu. However, Katula explained that he has no any information about him and that he had not been accorded any cooperation from him.

"If it is possible, let me pull out my surety bond," he posed. Equally, Hamadi chipped in and explained that he tried to get Lissu's mobile phone so that he could contact him, but his efforts proved futile, and assured the court that they will continue to follow up the matter and update the court accordingly.

Before the magistrate adjourning the case for another mention to April 25, 2019, Senior State Attorney Patrick Mwita raised his concerns over uncertainty by the sureties not knowing the whereabouts of the accused. He requested the court to compel the sureties to bring the accused in the next session. Other accused persons in the matter are Senior Journalist Simon Mkina, a Printer Ismail Mehbood and another seasoned Journalist Jabir Yunus.

The charges they are facing include conspiracy to publish a seditious publication, publishing and printing a seditious publication and printing a newspaper without submission of an affidavit. They are charged with an alternative count of intimidation to the charge of publishing seditious publication.

It is alleged that between January 12 and 14, 2016, at unknown place in the city, Yunus, Mkina and Lissu conspired together to publish a seditious publication. According to the prosecution, the publication was entitled as "Machafuko yaja Zanzibar", in the newspaper named as Mawio dated January 14, 2016.

The prosecution alleged that the said accused persons published the seditious publication on January 14, 2016, in Dar es Salaam, with intent to excite disaffection to the citizens of Zanzibar against the lawful authority of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar.

On January 13, 2016, at Jamana House area in Ilala District, Mehbood printed the seditious publication contained in the newspaper for similar purposes, similar to Mawio Newspaper without prior submission of an affidavit from the Registrar of Newspapers.

Yunus, Mkina and Lissu were charged with an alternative count of intimidation of publishing seditious publication. The prosecution told the court that the accused persons committed the offence on January 14, 2016. It is alleged that wrongfully and without legal authority, the trio having published the article in controversy intimidated the people of Zanzibar to refrain from the conduct of the rerun of the Zanzibar General Elections, 2016.

The accused persons, according to the prosecution, had indicated in the article that the re-run of the said elections would lead into an outbreak of war and public unrest, and result into bloodshed.

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