Tanzania: Kabendera's Plea Bargain Delay Now Queried

DEFENCE counsel for a freelance journalist, Erick Kabendera, on Wednesday raised his concern over the delay by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to respond to his client's request to enter into a plea bargain agreement to end the economic trial he is facing.

Mr Jebra Kambole told Principal Resident Magistrate Janeth Mtega at the Kisutu Resident Magistrates' Court in Dar es Salaam that since October when they wrote to the DPP and subsequently informing the court on the matter no progress had been made.

He, therefore, appealed for the process to be expedited. State Attorney Ester Martin admitted that about two months had passed since the accused wrote to the DPP to initiate the plea bargain process.

The trial attorney was, however, quick to point out that the accused himself or his advocate should follow up the matter to the relevant officer working on the file so that he would know the progress made instead of waiting.

Having listened to both parties and having observed that they had not reached any agreement on the matter, the magistrate adjourned the trial until December 18, 2019 for mention and ordered the accused to remain in remand.

The court was notified on the decision by Kabendera to write to the DPP on October 11, 2019 on the plea bargain agreement in terms of section 194A (2) of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), as amended by the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No 4) Act of 2019.

Such a provision states that an accused or his advocate or a public prosecutor may initiate a plea bargain and notify the court of their intention to negotiate.

According to the defence counsel, in terms of Article 58B(2) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, the DPP is vested with powers to institute, prosecute and supervise all criminal prosecutions in the country.

It is alleged by the prosecution that on diverse dates between January 2015 and July 2019 in various places in the commercial city of Dar es Salaam, with other persons not in court, Kabendera knowingly furnished assistance on the conduct of affairs or a criminal racket with either to reap profit or benefits.

The prosecution told the court that within the same period in the city, without reasonable excuse, the journalist failed to pay tax amounting to 173,247,047/02 payable to TRA.

On money laundering, the court heard also that within the same period and places, Kabendera acquired the money, while at the time of receipt he knew that the money was the proceeds of predicate offences of tax evasion and leading organised crime.

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