OPPOSITION political party Chadema Vice Chairman Tundu Lissu didn’t attend criminal proceedings at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday in relation to two out of five sedition cases he is facing.
He was scheduled to appear before Principal Resident Magistrate Kasssian Matembele and Senior Resident Magistrates Augustina Mbando, but didn’t do so by explaining that he was in Dodoma on political business.
Lissu’s advocate Peter Kibatala and his surety Rose Mushi informed the court that the accused was in Dodoma on Tuesday to present presidential nomination forms and was accommodated late by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
As a result, they alleged, Lissu, who is a presidential candidate on the party’s ticket, NEC offices late in the evening and could not, therefore, reorganise himself to travel to Dar es Salaam that night to attend the two cases.
The duo, however, promised Lissu would be available in the next court session.
The prosecution, led by Senior State Attorney Wankyo Simon and Lenatus Mkude, could not object to the position given by the two, as the event related to the submission of presidential election nomination forms was televised live and, indeed, Lissu was attended in late hours.
Under the circumstances, the trial attorneys requested the court to adjourn the cases to another date.
The magistrates, in two different court chambers, granted the prosecution’s request and adjourned the trial to September 24, 2020.
In the case before Matembele, the former Singida East Constituency Member of Parliament Lissu is facing five counts of uttering words with intent to wound religious feelings and raising discontent and ill-will for unlawful purposes.
Such offences, according to the prosecution, are alleged to have been committed on January 11, 2017 at Kombeni area within Magharibi B District in Mjini Magharibi Region in Zanzibar during the Dimani Constituency election campaign assembly.
In the case before Mbando, is charged with hate speech, an offence which is alleged to have been committed on July 17, 2017 at Ufipa area within Kinondoni District in Dar es Salaam.
Lissu is accused of uttering several abusive words against the fifth phase government led by President John Magufuli, that it was a racially, ethnically, regionally, and religiously biased government, utterances which were likely to stir up ethics hatred.
The opposition party leader is facing three other cases.
One is before Principal Resident Magistrate Thomas Simba in which Lissu is charged alongside three other accused persons with publishing seditious material in Mawio newspaper dated January 14, 2016, relating to the re-run of elections in Zanzibar.
In the case, Lissu is charged alongside two seasoned journalists Simon Mkina and Jabir Yunus, as well as businessman and printer Ismail Mehbood.
The charges they are facing include conspiracy to publish a seditious publication, publishing and printing a seditious publication and printing a newspaper without submission of an affidavit.
They are charged with an alternative count of intimidation to the charge of publishing seditious publication.
It is alleged that between January 12 and 14, 2016, at an unknown place in the city, Yunus, Mkina and Lissu conspired together to publish a seditious publication.
According to the prosecution, the publication bore headline “Machafuko yaja Zanzibar,” in the newspaper namely Mawio dated January 14, 2016.
The fourth case is before Senior Resident Magistrate in Charge Godfrey Isaya.
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The prosecution accuses the former MP of committing the offences on August 2, 2016, at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court.
It is alleged that with intent to bring into hatred to the citizens of the United Republic of Tanzania against the president, Lissu uttered seditious words, allegedly describing the Head of State as a dictator.
The prosecution also charges the former lawmaker of uttering seditious words saying, “kesi na mashitaka yenyewe ni ya kipuuzipuuzi na (….).” It is alleged that, with intent of showing disrespect of the court, Lissu uttered words, “siwezi kufungwa…. kesi namashitaka yenyewe ni ya kipuuzi .”
The opposition party leader is also accused of abusing the head of state, an offence allegedly committed on June 28, 2016, at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Ilala District in the city, when he uttered some seditious words.