Another defense witness in the case against Tanzania’s Opposition leader Freeman Mbowe alleges torture

'I was hang upside down and tortured'

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Freeman Mbowe-CHADEMA Chair

A second defense witness in a minor case that emanated from the primary case against Tanzania’s Opposition leader Mr Freeman Mbowe, and three others, alleges that he suffered torture while under police custody. Mr Mohamed Ling’wenya, on Monday told the court that while at the country’s Moshi police station where he was taken after being apprehended, he underwent torture by being hung upside-down and allegedly beaten severally by the Inspector General of Police, Omari Mahita.

Halfan Bwire Hassan, Adam Kisekwa and Mohammed Abdillah Ling’wenya

Mr Ling’wenya, told the High Court’s Division of Corruption and Sabotage, that while at yet another police station where he said he was moved to, in this case Tazara Police Station, he heard the cry of JWTZ Lieutenant Denis Urio, whom he claimed acted as a link to the contractual work CHADEMA’s Chair, Freeman Mbowe wanted them to carry out. Ling’wenya said the cries prompted him to peep through the prison cell where he was being held, which he testified was also where he had found his co-accused Mr Adam Kasekwa who had also been ferried there. He further explained that while he was looking to see what was happening, he learnt that the cry was coming from Lieutenant Urio.

Continuing with his testimony, Ling’wenya said that on the night of August 9, 2020, he was moved from the Tazara Police Station and taken to Mbweni Police Station while in handcuffs and with his face covered. He noted that while in the car that ferried him to Mbweni Police Station, he recognized the voice of Inspector Omari. Mohammed Abdillah Ling’wenya formerly served as the Commander of JWTZ Special Forces based in Sangasanga, Morogoro region. Ling’wenya becomes the second defense witness to give an account of torture in the ongoing case, as the first defense witness Adam Kasekwa last Friday also told the court that last year while under police custody, he suffered torture including a gunshot wound.

Kasekwa, who is also defendant number two, was further questioned today (Monday), and was seen to have a hard time as he encountered difficulty in responding to questions posed by Senior State Attorney, Abdallah Chavula. In contention was circumstances under which he gave his statement last year while in police custody; the State Counsel Chavula asked Kasekwa to direct the court on which account of his ordeal while in custody at Mbweni Police Station in Dar es Salaam should be considered, adding that he should be clear on whether he was tortured before giving a statement, or if he instead meant threatened.

Kasekwa would respond later by claiming that the former Director of Criminal Investigation (now the Regional Police Commander) ACP Ramadhan Kingai who recorded his statement, did torture him. His response did not satisfy the court, and this would lead the presiding Judge Siyani to grant State Counsel Chavula the opportunity to rephrase the question so that the accused could possibly understand and answer adequately. Counsel Chavula thereafter went ahead to further question the witness as to what was accurate in his claim between whether he gave the statement after being tortured or after being threatened. The persisting contention to some, seemed as though it was intended to confuse Kasekwa, however he would later give a final response by saying that he was indeed tortured including in handcuffs.

However, the Judge would still ask the defense witness Kasekwa to choose the right answer, and that if he was wrong his Lawyer John Mallya would assist him, saying that his response was critical to the case. Defense Attorney Mallya stepped in to assist him, claiming that his client had responded by saying he had not been beaten by ACP Kingai, but did not mean that he was not tortured and that handcuffs are also a form of torture. Lead Counsel Peter Kibatala, would add his voice saying that to dispel the confusion in court at the time, the Advocate Chavula would need to rephrase his question to the defense witness, instead of making the matter look like a competitive match. The Judge would later question Kasekwa asking him to make clear if he was beaten while in custody in Dar es Salaam, he would eventually respond by claiming that he indeed gave a statement under torture.

Kasekwa began testifying last Friday, September 24, 2021. The court heard that the first time Kasekwa was arrested was in Moshi-Eastern Tanzania, where he had gone to meet CHADEMA chair Freeman Mbowe, with the aim of setting up a contractual agreement on some security work that Mbowe had wanted him to perform. Kasekwa, a former official of the Tanzania People’s Defense Force, further stated that while he was in Rahu Madukani area situated within Moshi with his co- accused, Mohamed Ling’wenya, he was attacked by a group of five assailants who beat him down thoroughly and later apprehended him. Mr Ling’wenya would try to ask the assailants why they had descended on Kasekwa, but his intervention fell on deaf ears. Kasekwa who told the court that the incident took place on August 5, 2020, added that after his arrest, he had overheard one of his captors tell his colleagues that they had found him in possession of drugs and a weapon, which he added was not true and a mere fabrication of facts. In fact Kasekwa would tell the court that the assailants had pinned to him the drugs and pistol as false evidence.

Kasekwa went ahead to further narrate what was a horrifying story that left the court in silence; he recounted that during the time he had found himself in police custody at Moshi police station, he was stripped naked, hang to a pole, and then tortured and beaten down again for about 30 to 45 minutes; he would later be left in a state where he could hardly walk. He told the court that he also witnessed unidentified official pour water into the prison cell where he had been held, in what is thought to be perhaps an attempt to clear off traces of his torture.

As he proceeded with his testimony last Friday, Kasekwa told the court that on the night of August 6, he was blindfolded and ferried out of the Moshi police station. Later on he would find himself at the Tazara Police station in Dar es Salaam; he would only learn where he was at the time, after inquiring from persons whom he had found at the station. On August 9, 2020 at night he was blindfolded again and then ferried to another destination, only to find himself at the country’s Mbweni Police Station, where he said he met the first State witness, Regional Police Commander ACP Ramadhani Kingai. Kasekwa told the court that Kingai would coerce him to append a signature on papers whose purpose and details he was not privy to.

APC Ramadhani Kingai last Wednesday told the court that he was the one who recorded Kasekwa’s statement upon being apprehended, and went ahead to ask the court to admit it as evidence. The request was strongly opposed by lead defense counsel Peter Kibatala who asked the court not to admit the statement because it was not made voluntarily. The defense lawyers claimed the accused gave the statement after he was tortured under the supervision of Mr Kingai, and this is how the current minor case that is being heard emerged. The defense is expected to have more witnesses taking the stand. CHADEMA’S Freeman Mbowe, Halfan Bwire Hassan, Adam Kisekwa and Mohammed Abdillah Ling’wenya are facing charges related to Economic Sabotage and terrorism. The court proceedings have been adjourned until September 28, 2021.

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