Tanzania: Opposition Leader’s Court Hearing Postponed Due To Internet Connection Issues

Tanzanian riot police detained a number of protesting supporters of arrested opposition leader Freedom Mbowe, as a terrorism case against him was postponed. Mbowe and other officials from the main opposition party Chadema were arrested last month ahead of a planned conference to demand constitutional reform.

The 59-year-old has been charged with terrorism financing and conspiracy in a case that has triggered concern among rights groups and some Western nations about the state of democracy under Tanzania’s new leader.

His defence lawyer Peter Kibatala says Mbowe had been due to appear in court in the financial capital Dar es Salaam via a video link from prison but the case was postponed to today because of connection problems.

Chadema supporters waving placards saying “Mbowe is not a terrorist” and “Free Freeman Mbowe” gathered outside the court.

Police responded by arresting protesters, the party says on Twitter. Images from the scene showed helmeted police bundling people into a pickup truck and taking them away. It was not immediately clear how many were detained.

Chadema also says police had raided its regional office in the capital Dodoma and assaulted a guard before making off with documents.

The party’s secretary general John Mnyika urged supporters to turn up at the court again on today when Mbowe is due to appear in person. Amnesty International has joined the calls for his release, saying the government must substantiate the charges against him.

Since President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s inauguration, the Tanzanian government has taken some encouraging steps towards allowing greater freedom of expression and association in the country,” Amnesty says in a statement.

This case is a concerning development that casts doubt on whether that progress will continue or whether repression will once again be the order of the day.”

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