THE High Court of Zanzibar yesterday acquitted all 12 people, including MV Spice Islander I top officials, who were charged with 212 criminal charges following the vessel sank that left about 208 passengers on board dead enroute to Pemba from Unguja.
Judge Abraham Mwampasha ruled in favour of Chief Officer of the ship employed and working in Visiwani Shipping Company Limited Abdallah Ali and his colleagues after the prosecution, through the evidence tendered by 16 witnesses, failed to establish a "prima facie" case against them.
A prima facie case is the establishment of a legally required rebuttable presumption.
A prima facie case is a cause of action or defence that is sufficiently established by a party's evidence to justify a verdict in his or her favour, provided such evidence is not rebutted by the other party.
Other acquitted persons are Simai Nyange, the Accounting Clerk of passengers and cargo in the department of Registrar of Ship under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Communication in Zanzibar and Haji Ussi, the Director General of Zanzibar Maritime Authority under the ministry.
The rest are Abdallah Mohamed, the Registrar of Shipping employed under the ministry, Juma Seif, who was Ship Inspector employed by the ministry, Hassan Mwinyi, the Transportation Clerk with Zanzibar Ports Authority and Shaib Mohamed, the Ticket Collector with MV Spice Islander I at Zanzibar Port.
In the boat as crew were Salim Mohamed, the Executive Directors and Shareholder of MV Spice Islander I employed by the Visiwani Shipping Company, Makame Hanuu, who is Chief Engineer and Shareholder with the vessel and Jaku Ayoub, a Shareholder of Al-Ghubra Marine Service Limited.
The charges they were facing includes manslaughter in relation to the death of 208 people, failure to observe the ship load line, engaging in unsafe ship, overloading of passengers and conducting endangering person on board the ship.
In his ruling, the judge found that the evidence presented by prosecution witnesses was insufficient to ground a conviction in respect to the offences charges, thus requiring the accused persons, who were represented by Advocates, Capt. Ibrahim Bendera, Abdallah Juma and Bdul Hamid, to give their defence.
Judge Mwampashi pointed out that there must be evidence to show that the persons involved are really dead and that it is the accused persons who caused their death. During the trial, the prosecution called witnesses, including a medical doctor.
However, according to the judge, such doctor could not produce any death certificate for the victims and that there was no evidence showing the death was due to overloading.
It was testified that the ship sailed all the way several miles from Zanzibar Port to Nungwi area before sinking.
The judge further ruled that there was no evidence produced by the prosecution, including a certificate indicating the capacity of the ship and that the accused persons were responsible, because they owned the Sea going vessel.
It was alleged by the prosecution that on September 9, 2011 at about 21.30 hours at Malindi Port in the Urban District within Urban West Region of Unguja, having the responsibility and duty to care for the passengers and their cargo in the ship, the accused persons negligently failed to discharge their duties.