Written by FAUSTINE KAPAMA
LEGAL technicalities and absence of defence counsel yesterday forced the High Court in Dar es Salaam to adjourn to tomorrow the trial on piracy involving seven Somali nationals, charged with attacking an oil exploration vessel within Tanzania’s waters.
In the session presided over by Judge Grace Mwakipesile, the prosecution was represented by Senior State Attorneys Prosper Mwangamila and Peter Maugo, while advocate Mohamed Mkali appeared for only two accused persons. The rest of defence lawyers were absence for undisclosed reasons.
The legal technicality was raised by the prosecution on defects of proceedings of Coast Resident Magistrate’s Court at Kibaha for not showing the order, committing the accused persons to the High Court for trial of their case.
Mr Mwangamila told the court that the absence of such an order rendered the High Court having no jurisdiction to continue with the trial. He, therefore, requested the court to remit back to the lower court the proceedings and accused persons for rectification of the defect.
However, the judge failed to act on the prosecution’s request because advocates for most of accused persons could not attend the court session. The judge, therefore, ordered that the advocates should be notified of the hearing which is scheduled for tomorrow.
The accused persons in the trial are Mohamed Nuru Adam, Bashir Yusuph Rooble, Muhsini Shehe Haji, Abdulwaidi Abdalahamani, Faragani Ali Abdul, Ally Nur Ally and Omar Mohamed, alias Mudhee. They are facing only one count of piracy, contrary to Section 66 (1) (a) (b) of the Penal Code, as amended.
Such provision reads, “Any person who does any act of violence or detention or degradation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or aircraft and directed against another ship or aircraft or persons or property on board or in a place outside the jurisdiction of any state.
“Participates in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft or does any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act (stated above) commits an act of piracy.”
The accused persons allegedly committed the offence on October 3, 2011 in the Indian Ocean and within Tanzania’s Exclusive Economic Zone. They are alleged to have attacked an oil exploration vessel known as SAM S ALL-GOOD by using firearms.
According to the law under which the seven men are charged with, notably Sub-Section (2) of the Act, a person who does or participates in the piracy commits an offence of piracy and on conviction is liable to imprisonment for life. During today’s court session, the accused persons are expected to enter plea to the charge in question.
Thereafter, either today or any other day upon adjournment of trial, the prosecution will provide memorandum of facts, giving details on how the accused persons participated in committing the crime. In October 2011, a Navy Unit of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces captured the Somali suspects a short distance away from Mafia Island at night.
An oil prospecting vessel was attacked by a group of at least seven suspected terrorists of Somali origin. But when the attack was radioed in the Tanzanian navy units in the area immediately deployed to intercept the pirates. Upon closing in on the pirates, a fire fight reportedly ensued before the navy personnel overpowered them and took them into custody.