THE Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has set free Islamic Supreme Council of Zambia president Suzyo Zimba and two Somalis who were accused of giving false information to an Immigration officer and aiding and abetting entry of 11 Somalis into the country.

Before acquitting them, Lusaka Magistrate Felix Kaoma expressed shock that the State could bring the three to court without properly investigating the matter.

This was after investigations officer Geoffrey Mukwasa admitted in his testimony that the 11 Somalis, whom the accused persons were accused of having aided and abetted entry into the country, were not prohibited immigrants and as such, their charge was defective.

Mukwasa said he had suggested that the case be handled differently rather than taking it to court after investigations, but was advised by his superiors to prosecute the matter.

In this matter, Zimba was jointly charged with Egeh Hussein and Omar Mohamud on 13 counts of giving false information to an immigration officer, harbouring a prohibited immigrant and aiding and abetting illegal immigrants.

The three were alleged to have procured immigration visas for 11 Somalis by purporting that they were visiting Zambia to attend an Inter-Cultural Competence Course at Kook College of International Studies, when in fact not.

It was also alleged that the three on the same dates knowingly aided, abetted and assisted Ifra Hassan, Shafi Haliwo, Abdi Hassan, Mohamud Hassan, Mahad Ibrahim, Ahmed Fara, Abdifatah Yusuf, Ali Fara, Faysal Hassan, Abdishakur Mohamed and Hassan Mohamed, entry and stay in Zambia.

The accused had, however, denied the charges and trial commenced thereafter.

And when the matter came up for continued trial before Magistrate Kaoma, Tuesday, an immigration officer testified that the 11 Somalis, who were intercepted at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) as they attempted to gain entry into the country, gave various reasons for coming to Zambia, among them, to search for greener pastures and visiting relatives.

Nora Ngolwe, an Immigration Department officer, who operates at KKIA, however, said the visas that the 11 had were genuinely issued by the Department.

She added that the 11 were not prohibited immigrants but travellers.

And Mukwasa, an Immigration officer at Lusaka Regional office, said on May 16, 2019, he was called by officers at KKIA because he was an investigations officer.

He said it was reported to him that 11 Somalis arrived at the airport and that after entering, officers suspected that their visas were either not genuinely issued or they had been trafficked into the country.

Mukwasa, however, said that the investigations conducted revealed that the visas the 11 had were issued by the immigration officers in Zambia.

“The other underlying suspicion that was highlighted to me during investigations was that there was an element of them being trafficked in the country. I was, therefore, tasked to establish whether their visit was genuine” Mukwasa said.

“During my investigations, I probed the Zambia Immigration Management system, that is the computer system, to help me with the information on the visas that were issued to the 11 Somalis. I discovered that the Somalis were issued visas by our Immigration office.”

He said after investigations, he charged Zimba with giving false information to an immigration officer, while his co-accused were charged with aiding and abetting.

The investigations officer, however, told the Court that he had suggested handling the case differently, but that he was advised by his superiors to take the case to court.

He added that even if the case was brought to court, he was not satisfied that there was a case fit to be prosecuted successfully.

Mukwasa said there was a perceived thought that Zimba intended to bring the 11 Somalians to Zambia for a different purpose but that the same was not established during investigations.

In cross-examination, he agreed with defence lawyer Felix Mutale that the 11 Somalis were not prohibited immigrants, as such, the charge, which was saying so, was defective.

After his testimony, the State closed its case.

But after closing the case, Magistrate Kaoma immediately delivered a ruling on the case to answer and acquitted the accused persons.

He said it was shocking that the State would take the accused persons to court without proper investigations and merely to clutter the courts.

“I find all the three accused persons with no case to answer and I acquit them accordingly,” magistrate Kaoma ruled.

Speaking after being acquitted, Zimba said he had an idea of the people behind his arrest, but added that he had forgiven them.

“We are free. It was expected because we know also from the statement that came from the arresting officer that he was instructed. I think I have an idea of the people that are behind. People should stop using government offices to fight their own locals. Here in Zambia, you will find [that] Indians or some Somalis are using some people that are in government to fight innocent citizens, which is very sad,” said Zimba.

“It is because of my position as president of the Muslim community that people know that I don’t entertain wrong things. They know that I have stopped some wrong people coming in this country and it was a way of punishing me. At the end of the day, God’s way is the best. We have learnt something from what has transpired. I’m not asking God to punish those that have wronged me. I have forgiven them.”