BY FAUSTINE KAPAMA
THE trial of seven suspected Somali pirates opens on Monday at the High Court in Dar es Salaam, being the first such case in the country’s judiciary history.
It will be a litmus test for the prosecution to prove such case since the National Assembly endorsed the Attorney General’s motion for Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) on the Penal Code, Act Number 2 of 2010, to introduce the piracy offence, following a wave of attacks on ships in deep seas.
An upcoming advocate Alloyce Komba is also going to be the first counsel in the country to defend such case by representing the seven Somalis, expected to be tried by High Court Judge Grace Mwakipesile.
In the case, the seven Somalis 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 ocean 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.
Thereafter, the suspects were interrogated by Tanzanian security forces before being taken to a district court in Kibaha for preliminary inquiry.