Morogoro — The secretary of the Council of the Islamic Organisation, Sheikh Issa Ponda, was set free yesterday after staying in remand prison for more than two year over charges of incitement and instigating religious hatred.
Morogoro Resident Magistrate Court said the prosecution failed to prove charged against the controversial cleric beyond all reasonable doubt.
Cries of joy were heard from Sheikh Ponda's followers after Resident Magistrate Mary Moyo declared the cleric a free person.
The sheikh was freed under the provision of Section 235 of Criminal Procedure Act, with the magistrate saying the prosecution failed to show how the cleric's utterances hurt the faith of other religions and incited people to commit a crime.Shikh Ponda was injured by Police Bullets in Morgoro while Preaching in August 2013.
Speaking moments after being declared not guilty, Sheikh Ponda said despite the fact that the court had set him free at last, he is still unhappy that he was made to stay in remand for a long period because the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) blocked his right to bail.
He said there was a need for the Constitution, which is the Mother Law, to be amended by reducing the powers of the DPP, including removing his authority to block an accused person's bail application, since those powers forces the innocent people to stay behind bars.
His lawyer, Mr Abubakar Salimu, said the court delayed justice to his client and there is no way he can recoup the wasted time.
"Sheikh Ponda stayed in remand prison for two years and three months and during that time he lost his mother and his father-in law, therefore; he failed to attend their burials, he was also separated from his family," said Mt Salum, adding: "Let it be understood that justice delayed is equal to justice denied."
State attorneys Sunday Hyera and George Mbalasa said they had nothing to say since the case was over and the court had given its verdict. They left the court soon after the judgment was read.
Earlier on, Sheikh Ponda arrived at the court at about 08.30am under tight security led by a special force of prison warders armed with firearms and tear gas canisters.
Visibly calm and composed, Sheikh Ponda alighted from the prison van and soon he was reading a newspaper.
Only a few of his followers were allowed into the court while others were turned away outside the fence because of what were said to be security reasons.
Earlier, the prosecution told the court that on August 10, 2013 at around 18.45pm at the Kiwanja cha Ndege Primary School grounds, Sheikh Ponda committed three crimes. They included: disobeying a lawful order of the court, giving statements that hurt the faith of other religions and inciting people to commit a crime.
However, the first count of disobeying a lawful order of the court was dropped after Sheikh Ponda won on appeal, remaining with two charges against him.
In the case, the prosecution lined up nine witnesses as well as seven exhibits and a camera that recorded Sheikh Ponda when he allegedly committed crime, and the defence had just one witness