Tanzania: Statement regarding the Judgement of Maxence Melo and Mike William

This statement was written by Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition

Today, 8 April 2020, Kisutu Residents Magistrate Court delivered the judgment on the case which involved Maxence Melo and one another (Mike William) The two accused persons were charged with obstruction of investigation contrary to section 22 (1) of the Cyber Crimes Act, 2015.

Delivering the judgment, the Senior Resident Magistrate, Thomas Simba said that the two accused persons, who are alleged to be the owners of Jamii Forums, committed the said offence after failing to accord police cooperation when they were investigating a member of Jamii Forums who identified himself as Chura Expert Member. Chura was investigated by police having published misleading information in Jamii Forums platform. However, Maxence Melo via his advocate wrote to Police Force requiring explanations among others on the specific law that gave Police powers to require personal information. Maxence required such explanations because Jamii Forums members operate anonymously and so it would also be difficult for him to identify them by their real names.

During the hearing of the case, the court directed itself in determining two issues; whether the two accused persons were the owners of Jamii of Jamii Forums and whether they are liable as charged. After hearing the evidence of both sides, the court reached into the conclusion that the accused number two was not one of the owners of Jamii Forums and so he was acquitted. However the court found Maxence guilty for he is the owner of Jamii Forums and that he indeed failed to accord police cooperation when he was ordered to do so.

Maxence who is also a Board Member of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) was therefore found guilty and was supposed to pay fine totalling Tshs 3 millions. The court reached into that decision for the accused person is a first offender and has previously never been found guilty of any other offence. Procedures to pay the said fine are underway at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court.

Nevertheless, Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition in collaboration with Jammi Forums is intending to appeal against the judgment at the High Court for there are several irregularities that have been clearly identified by advocates on the said decision. In this case, defence team was led by Advocate Peter Kibatala, assisted by Benedict Ishabakaki, Jeremiah Mtobesya and Jebra Kambole.

Issued today the 8th day of April 2020
By Onesmo Olengurumwa, National Coordinator, Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)