THE Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam yesterday gave a strong warning to four Chadema Members of Parliament (MPs) for jumping bail in a sedition trial they are facing alongside five other senior officials of the opposition party.
Principal Resident Magistrate, Thomas Simba gave the warning after rejecting the reasons the four, Peter Msigwa (Iringa Urban), John Heche (Tarime Rural), Halima Mdee ( Kawe) and Ester Bulaya (Bunda Urban ) had advanced to justify their non-appearance.
He pointed out that there was no doubt that all the four MPs could not attend the hearing session on November 15, 2019 when the party's National Chairman Freeman Mbowe, who was in court, was required to continue giving his defence testimony through cross-examination by the prosecution.
According to him, most of them defended themselves by saying they came late to the court on claims that the session was to start at around 10.30am.
"I agree with the prosecution that such reason was a mere assumption. It does not click into my mind why the four could have similar thinking," the magistrate said.
To his astonishment, he said, the rest of the accused persons attended the court hearing session on time. "I am settled in my mind that there is a problem somewhere.
It follows, therefore, that the non-attendance of the four accused persons have no reasonable explanations," the magistrate ruled.
As to the request for cancellation of bail, the magistrate pointed out that although the reasons advanced to justify nonappearance were baseless, he found it too harsh to cancel the bail to the accused persons.
He, instead, extended the bail to the MPs, but with a strong warning to them to obey the set conditions. There was also a certainty of reliability of sureties for Msigwa and Heche.
The magistrate directed the duo to clear the uncertainty when the hearing of the case resumes on November 26, 2019.
They were on November 15 to account for their failure to attend the previous hearing session and remanded them until today when the status of their bail will be determined.
During the hearing session, the prosecution led by Principal State Attorney, Faraja Nchimbi pushed for cancellation of bail to all the MPs as the reasons given to support their failure to attend in court on November 15, 2019 were unsatisfactory.
The prosecution team also comprising Principal State Attorneys Joseph Pande, Senior State Attorney Wankyo Simon and State Attorneys Salim Msemo and Jacqueline Nyantori forcefully submitted that all the four breached the bail conditions as they did not produce any notice of their absenteeism.
However, Advocate Peter Kibatala countered that there was no cogent reason warranting bail cancellation. He told the court that the three MPs, except Bulaya, came to the court late, thinking that the session could not have started at 9.00am as was the practice in previous sessions.
Apart from Mbowe, Msigwa, Heche, Mdee and Bulaya, other accused persons who attended the previous session were the party's Secretary General Vincent Mashinji , John Mnyika, Deputy Secretary General (Mainland), Salum Mwalimu, Deputy Secretary General (Zanzibar) and Tarime Urban MP, Ester Matiko.
They are charged with 13 counts of conspiracy to commit offences, unlawful assembly, rioting after proclamation, raising discontent and ill-will for unlawful purposes, sedition and inciting commission of offences.
The charges are alleged to have been committed between February 1 and 16, 2018 in the city.
The prosecution alleges that on February 16, 2018 along Kawawa Road at Mkwajuni area, being assembled with intent to carry out a common purpose, jointly and together, all accused persons conducted themselves in such a manner as to cause a fear of breach of peace.
It is claimed further that on the same day and place, with more than 12 other persons not in court, having riotously assembled, in disobedience of proclamation given by a police officer, the accused persons failed to disperse and continued to take part in the riot.
According to the prosecution, the accused persons breached the peace and terrified the public, culminating in the death of National Institute of Transport (NIT) Student, Akwilina Akwiline Baftaa, and injury of two police officers, Police Constable Fikiri and Corporal Rahim Msangi