Tanzania: Seven Somali Nationals Jailed for Life Over Piracy

The High Court in Dar es Salaam has sentenced seven Somali nationals to life imprisonment over piracy. Judge Yose Mlyambina meted the harsh sentence last week against Mohamed Adam, Bashir Rooble, Muhsini Haji, Abdulwaidi Abdalahamani, Faragani Abdul, Ally Nur Ally and Omar Mohamed, alias Mudhee after convicting them of the charges they were facing.

He took into consideration evidence by 14 prosecution witnesses and six documentary exhibits as well as the defence testimony by the accused.

The judge concluded that the prosecution had sufficiently proved its case beyond reasonable doubt as required in criminal cases.

During the trial, which was being conducted almost to midnight in every court session, the prosecution was represented by Dar es Salaam Regional Prosecutions Officer, Senior State Attorney Mkunde Mshanga as well as Senior State Attorney Cecilia Shelly and State Attorney George Barasa.

Advocates Aloyce Komba, Domicus Mkwera, Rupia Abraham, Msemo Omary, Dennis Tumaini, Benedict Pius and Gelas Severine appeared for the accused who were charged with one count of piracy, contrary to Section 66 (1) (a) (b) of the Penal Code, as amended.

The 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 prosecution had told the court that the accused committed the offence on October 3, 2011 in the Indian Ocean and within Tanzania’s Exclusive Economic Zone, by attacking an oil exploration vessel-SAM S ALLGOOD- using firearms.

According to the law under which the seven men were 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 life imprisonment.

In October 2011, a Navy Unit of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) captured the Somali suspects a short distance away from Mafia Island at night.

The 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.

Having been captured, the pirates were taken into custody. According to evidence on record, all accused persons attacked the vessel through open fire amounting to threatening crewmen of the ship and the accused went further, exchanging fire with TPDF soldiers.

The soldiers had been assigned to ensure security of the drilling site of gas and oil exploration.

It was evident that the accused who were in the skiff, fired gunshot at the ship by hitting and breaking the vessel about eight holes and 12 marks before taking its control.

The Master of the ship and offshore manager saw the accused ready to board the ship and ordered his crew to rescue their lives by hiding in the engine room.

He later raised a distressed call and within few minutes the Tanzania security personnel arrived at the scene of the attack and found seven people sitting on the ship which they had attacked. They were arrested and taken to the Frobisher vessel where the TPDF members had control.