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Australian activist Zara Kay finally back home

Sunday March 07 2021
Zara pic

Australian national Zara Kay poses for a photo in a past event. The activist, who has been facing legal troubles in Tanzania, has called on Tanzanian authorities to either arraign her or free her instead of prolonging her ordeals. In an interview, she also criticised the Australian High Commission in Nairobi for keeping mum on her problems. PHOTO | AGENCIES

By Louis Kalumbia

Dar es Salaam. Australian activist Zara Kay, who was being investigated in Tanzania over immigration issues, arrived in Australia with the immigration department explaining reasons for setting her free.

The founder of a non-governmental organization ‘Faithless Hijabi’ left the country on Monday and arrived in Australia on last Thursday.

Ms Kay, who acquired Australian citizenship after neutralisation of her Tanzanian identity, was arrested last December allegedly for failure to return the Tanzanian passport.

She was also accused for issuing satirical social media posts critical of President John Magufuli when she was in the UK last year as well as using a SIM card registered under another person’s name.

According to Ms Kay, Tanzanian authorities confiscated her passport and other possessions as it commenced investigations to establish the motives behind her failure to return the document and her recent visit to the country.

She blamed unidentified members of her former religious community for being behind her ordeal and that of her family, saying due to her overstay in Tanzania, she lost her job in the UK.

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Through text messages, Ms Kay confirmed to The Citizen that she had arrived in Australia after being cleared of charges she was being investigated with.

“All charges were dropped after authorities established that there was no case against me,” she told The Citizen in a text message.

The immigration commissioner of passport and citizenship, Mr Gerald Kihinga, told The Citizen on Friday that findings of preliminary investigations showed that she never used the Tanzanian passport after acquiring the Australian travel document.

“Our investigations in countries she frequently visited showed that there was no place the activist used Tanzanian travel document after becoming the Australian citizen,” he said at the Kurasini offices here.

“Basing on the findings, the department found that there was no reason to continue keeping her here. We have released her despite the fact that we will continue probing and once it is proved that she used the Tanzania travel document after acquiring the Australian citizenship, we will sue the activist,” he said.

Mr Kihinga dismissed claims raised in a statement released by her lawyers that the Australia travel document seized after her arrest was lost in the hands of law enforcers.

“That’s completely false because it would have been difficult for her to leave the country if the document went missing” he said.

Explaining how she left the country, Ms Kay said she was stopped by immigration officials at the airport because they didn’t update in the system that her charges had been dropped, therefore she was restricted to leave.

“I had to return at the airport on Monday where I was about to miss my flight. My brother spent many hours with immigration officials to up to date my information,” she said.

In a statement, her legal counsel said they were “delighted that Zara has finally been able to leave Tanzania after what can only be described as a traumatic three months for her and her family”.

They said they were grateful to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian High Commission in Nairobi for their “urgent assistance under difficult circumstances”.

“No charges have ever been laid against Zara – yet she and her family have been the subject of threats and intimidation of the most serious kind because of her religious choices, exercising her right to freedom of expression, and her human rights work,” they said.


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