Terrorism charges have been filed against the leader of Tanzania’s opposition party.
Following his detention, which prompted international alarm and criticism of Tanzania’s new president, a Tanzanian court has accused the leader of the largest opposition party with terrorism-related offenses.
Last week, Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe and 15 other party members were imprisoned in a late-night crackdown that opponents said echoed the repressive rule of the country’s late leader.
Mbowe was charged with two charges of “economic sabotage,” according to state prosecutor Ester Martin, which are felonies in Tanzania that do not allow for bail.
She told reporters late Monday, “These are terrorism finance and terrorism plot.”
Mbowe was charged with terrorism offenses at Kisutu court, according to Chadema, without the presence of his family or lawyers.
Last Wednesday, the party chairman and several Chadema officials were detained in Mwanza, a port city on Lake Victoria, ahead of a planned public assembly to demand constitutional reform.
Mbowe was transferred to a prison in Dar es Salaam, where he was being held “for organizing terrorism actions, including the assassination of government figures,” according to authorities.
During a search of his house in the city, laptops and other gadgets were seized.
State prosecutors, on the other hand, stated Mbowe’s terrorist allegations stemmed from suspected crimes committed last year in a separate part of Tanzania, not from his planned operations in Mwanza.
Mbowe was aware that he was being investigated for terrorism, and he departed for Mwanza after learning that he would be arrested, according to police spokesman David Misime.
He noted that six others had been charged with the same offenses. On August 5, the case will be heard again in court.
Mbowe’s family and lawyers were told he was being brought to the hospital for health tests, but he was instead “taken to the court discreetly” and accused without any of his legal counsel present, according to Chadema.
The allegations were brought four months after Tanzania’s first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, assumed office following the death in March of John Magufuli, whose dictatorial administration was marked by regular crackdowns on the opposition.
Hassan had reached out to the opposition and promised to safeguard democracy and basic freedoms, raising hopes that Tanzania would be led away from her predecessor’s heavy-handed and uncompromising leadership.
However, rights groups and opposition activists decried the roundup of senior Chadema officials as proof that the administration’s intolerance of dissent still remained.
The US voiced worry about Mbowe’s detention and encouraged Hassan to ensure that all Tanzanians are free.