Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian authorities have denied international media reports about Australian rights activist Zara Kay, saying she was being investigated for failure to surrender her Tanzanian passport after she acquired Australian citizenship.
Speaking exclusively to The Citizen yesterday, the Immigration Commissioner of Passports and Citizenship, Mr Gerald Kihinga, denied reports that the arrest was politically motivated.
“She is being investigated for failing to declare her acquisition of Australian citizenship and securing the relevant documents.
Tanzanians cannot have dual citizenship, and it is illegal for a Tanzanian to hold passports of two different countries.”
According to him, Ms Kay received the first Tanzanian passport number AB100678 on December 31, 2005, which expired on December 30, 2015.
Mr Kahinga said that on July 31, 2014, she was given another passport number AB652209 that was due to expire on July 30, 2024.
However, reports show that she acquired an Australian passport number PA8029098 on July 24, 2018 which has not been declared to Tanzanian authorities.
“We are investigating the possible motive for her failure to declare her acquisition of Australian citizenship, and what exactly brought her back to Tanzania,” he said.
According to Mr Kahinga, findings of the investigation would determine legal measures to be taken against her, including taking her to court, where, if found guilty, she could face a one-year jail sentence or be required to pay a fine not exceeding Sh500,000.
Mr Kahinga said Ms Kay arrived in Tanzania on September 6, 2020 on a 60-day visa that was initially due to expire on December 5, 2020, but was extended to January 20, 2021.
International media, including the Guardian of the UK have reported that Ms Kay founder of Faithless Hijabi, a group set up two years ago to support women who are ostracised or face violence if they leave or question Islam.
Her supporters were quoted saying Ms Kay was summoned by police on December 28, 2020 over what the activist said claims of blasphemy reported by an individual; however she was released on bail.
“Please don’t stop fighting for me,” she wrote. “They can try shaking me, but they won’t break me,” she was quoted on twitter.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Sunday it was “providing consular assistance to an Australian in Tanzania” without providing further comments.
The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims issued a statement saying Kay had been held in police custody for 32 hours from 28 December “without an initial clear indication of charges” and had her passport confiscated.
It said she would be required to return to the police station in Dar es Salaam, on Tuesday.
The coalition listed charges that led to her arrest as the citizenship saga, comments critical of the government and SIM card registration, “We believe these charges are politically motivated.”
“The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims reiterates its call on the Tanzanian government to immediately drop all the charges against Zara Kay and allow her to leave the country … We also call on the Australian authorities to intervene and get Zara home to safety.”
Types of assistance provided by Australian consular staff include visiting prisons to monitor welfare, check with local authorities about the Australian’s wellbeing and provide contact details for local lawyers.