2009-10-07 07:14:00 Court suspends Jeetu theft case By Rosina John THE CITIZEN The Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court has agreed to stop hearing the Sh9.7 billion theft case against Dar es Salaam businessman, Mr Jeetu Patel and two others to allow for the hearing of their petition for mistrial at the High Court. Resident magistrate Luwaichi Meela made the decision yesterday after he agreed with a request from defence lawyers to halt the trial pending the outcome of the High Court petition. In the petition, Mr Patel and his co accused seek to have charges of grand corruption against them in the lower court dropped for mistrial. In the case at the Kisutu court, Mr Jeetu, whose real name is Mr Jiantkumar Patel, is charged along with Devendra Patel and Amity Nandy with stealing from the External Payment Arrears (EPA) account of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) using a local company registered as Bencorn International Ltd. In their plea for mistrial, the lawyers argue that their clients' constitutional rights in which one is presumed innocent until proved guilty, had been grossly violated. They want the criminal charges against them dropped for fear they will not be given a fair hearing. In the petition filed early June, the respondents are the Attorney General (AG), the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and Mr Reginald Mengi, media mogul and the executive chairman of IPP Limited. They argue that Mr Mengi, had condemned them ab initio through intense media coverage of the allegations against them, citing his press conference last April during which he named five people including Mr Patel as "Mafisadi Papa" (corruption sharks) and called on the government to act tough on them. Mr Meela said the Kisutu Court will now stop the proceedings of the case pending determination of the petition at the High Court and that the case will come for mention on November 4. According to the defence lawyers the lower court could not proceed with the hearing of the case until the upper court through the petition had clarified important constitutional issues. But legal sources said it would be interest to see how the High Court will finally decide. One senior lawyer went as far as saying the courts acted independently irrespective of what happened in the streets. In his opinion, mistrial was normally a ground for appeal upon conviction "after the trial." But to restrict newspapers to cover cases, would amount to another constitutional conflict, he said. The courts only considered the evidence adduced in court and not what was said elsewhere, he stressed. "It will be interesting to see how the (High) Court will decide. In any case, the remedy for malicious prosecution, such as lopsided media coverage, is provided for through civil litigation," he said. But Mr Patel and his co accused claimed that the Government filed the charges against them after they were portrayed in the media as being corrupt and that the public perception about them was that of guilty people just waiting to be jailed. They also want the High court to declare that the remarks by Mr Mengi and others violated their constitutional rights and have resulted in a mistrial of the criminal case facing them. They want the court to declare that the government through the minister of justice and constitutional affairs should dismiss the charges and sue Mr Mengi for contempt of court. Mr Jeetu and his co accused are facing more than three EPA fraud cases before different magistrates where they are alleged to have stolen over Sh22 billion using a number of companies.