The secretary of the Council of Muslims’ Organisations Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda and 49 followers have pleaded not guilty to all charges

MKADAM Swalehe appeared before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court for the second time on Thursday, joining the Secretary of the Council of Muslims Organization, Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda, and his 49 followers who are facing five charges.

Sheikh Ponda, and his 49 followers, denied all charges in connection with committing conspiracy, trespass, criminal possession and stealing materials worth 59.6m/- from Agritanza limited. Before the arraignment of Swalehe, Sheikh Ponda was facing the fifth charge of inciting people to commit an offence alone.

All accused persons denied all charges once again yesterday and were bailed out except for Sheikh Ponda and Swalehe. The defence lawyer, Mr Juma Nassoro, explained that the defence side understands that Tanzania Muslim Council of Tanzania (Bakwata) is a council that leads some Muslims.

It should not be believed that Bakwata leads all Muslims in Tanzania. “Bakwata is there but it should not be understood that it is there to lead all Muslims across the nation. It is there for a certain group of Muslims,” he said. Mr Nassoro further said that his client deserved to be treated with dignity and was entitled to human rights as any other accused person.

Therefore, he asked the court to stop bringing Sheikh Ponda to court in handcuffs. “I ask your court to stop bringing my client (Sheikh Ponda) to court in handcuffs. It is not fair. He deserves human rights like any other person because the court has not yet proved him guilty,” he told the court. Magistrate Victoria Nongwa adjourned the case to November 29, the day witnesses from prosecution side will testify.