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Tanzania sentences 52 to a year in jail

22 March 2013, 13:22

Dar Es Salaam - A Tanzanian court on Thursday sentenced 52 followers of a controversial Muslim cleric to a year in jail.

"The accused were found guilty of three offences including conspiracy to commit an offence, unlawful assembly and rioting," Dar es Salaam state attorney Bernard Kongola, told AFP.

The 52 are all supporters of cleric Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda, who himself is facing charges of theft, instigating violence and criminal trespass - along with dozens of others - over October demonstrations in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam. Ponda's judgement is scheduled for April 18.

The clashes at the time were sparked by rumours that a 12-year-old boy at a Christian school had urinated on a copy of the Koran, according to the police.

Kongola said those sentenced on Thursday had participated in riots last month and held an illegal march demanding the release of the jailed sheikh.

Ponda is the head of Jumuiya ya wa Islamu, or the "community of Islam", a group not recognised by the Tanzanian government.


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