BY FAUSTINE KAPAMA
THE High Court in Dar es Salaam ordered the Coast Resident Magistrate’s Court at Kibaha to conduct proper committal proceedings in the trial involving seven Somali nationals, who are charged with attacking an oil exploration vessel within Tanzania’s waters.
Judge Grace Mwakipesile issued the order after granting a request by the prosecution, who had pointed out that the High Court lacked jurisdiction to continue trying the case because the lower court had not issued proper order to commit the accused persons for the trial.
The judge, therefore, remitted back to the lower court the records of the case and the accused persons for the rectification of the legal defect. She directed that the lower court should make a specific order, committing the accused persons to the High Court for trial of their case.
In his submissions, Senior State Attorney Prosper Mwangamila, for the prosecution, had told the court that when preparing to read memorandum of facts of the case, they discovered that the lower court had not issued the order, committing the accused persons to the High Court for trial.
The absence of such an order, he submitted, rendered the High Court with no jurisdiction to continue conducting the trial. A team of lawyers for the accused persons, including Mohamed Mkali, Florens Tesha and Grance Malikano, also supported the prosecution’s position.
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 knows 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 piracy commits an offence of piracy and on conviction is liable to imprisonment for life.
In October 2011, the Tanzanian navy 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 to the Tanzanian navy in the area, they 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.