A court in Tanzania has sentenced three Muslims to be hanged for decapitating four Christians in 2015 during an outbreak of violence fuelled by religion, a legal source said.
The East African country maintains the death penalty on its statutes, although nobody has been executed since 1994.
High Court Justice Lameck Mlacha in the northwestern town of Bukoba on Wednesday found the three guilty of murder, the source in the court clerk’s office said, asking not to be named.
The conviction was partially based on a video in which all three men appeared to acknowledge to police and local officials that the crime was motivated by religious convictions, added the source.
They killed their victims on November 11, 2015 and left headless bodies to be found at Katoma in the Bukoba district.
The three men are already serving jail terms for their involvement in arson attacks on more than a dozen churches, according to prosecutor Hashim Ngole, quoted by the Tanzanian press.
Ngole said that 13 other cases arising from the decapitation of people and church burnings in 2015 were undergoing legal process.
The condemned men intend to appeal, according to their leading lawyer Mathias Rweyemamu, who told the press that they had been tortured in detention, while the video recording of their confessions was “a fake stitched together”.
Some 500 convicts in Tanzania’s jails face the death penalty or have seen their sentences commuted to life prison terms on a de-facto basis.
President John Magufuli has said that he will sign no death warrants.