The terrorism case facing Tanzanian opposition leader Freeman Mbowe was postponed last week on Friday to August 27 after prosecutors failed to present him and his three co-accused to court, because of “a prison vehicle breakdown.’’
Friday’s court proceedings were conducted via video link with Mr Mbowe and his three co-accused still incarcerated in Dar es Salaam’s Ukonga prison. Prosecutors asserted that the case was only up for mention even after Mr Mbowe’s defence team filed a petition with the High Court against statements made by “a certain state institution” on the charges facing the Chadema party chairman and his co-accused.
Speaking outside the Kisutu resident magistrate’s court in Dar es Salaam after the adjournment, lead defence attorney Peter Kibatala said statements made by an institution he declined to name had “interfered with the independence of the Judiciary” to hear the case fairly and therefore made it a constitutional matter.
“The statements, in the manner they were uttered, have made our clients believe they have already been convicted and that there is now no way they can get a fair trial,” he said adding, “We have asked the High Court to look into these statements and reach a decision on whether or not they have made the case unreasonable, and if so there is nothing else to do but dismiss it in its entirety.”
In an interview with the BBC at State House Dar es Salaam last week on Monday, President Samia Hassan said she did not think the case against Mr Mbowe and his colleagues was politically motivated because “as far as I know it was opened in September of last year.”
“I think some of the cases against other suspects have been heard, some are already serving jail sentences. In his case the investigations were still continuing. Then came the election, which is now past. I believe now the police have completed their investigation.
“But Mbowe was not in the country for a long time after the election, he was in Nairobi... immediately he returned he started instigating these calls for demos demanding a new Constitution. I believe it was calculated, knowing he still had this case to answer and that if arrested he could claim it was because of the constitution reforms issue.”
Mr Mbowe and his co-accused face charges related to financing terrorist acts and illegal weapons possession.