Tanzania charges rights activist with economic crimes

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A Tanzanian human rights activist was charged with economic crimes amid growing concerns from rights groups and foreign governments over a crackdown on dissent in the East African nation.

Tito Magoti, a lawyer with the Dar es Salaam-based Legal and Human Right Center (LHRC) and Theodory Giyan, an IT expert at a private company, were both charged with “leading organized crime, possession of a computer program designed for the purpose of committing an offence and money laundering”, according to court documents.

Police arrested Magoti with three other people name withheld on Friday on “various allegations”.

Police announced Magoti was in their custody hours after the rights group that employs him said he was snatched off the street by men in civilian clothes.

The two men were not allowed to enter a plea after the charges were read against them at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

There was no immediate comment from the men’s employers.

Money laundering is not a bail able offence in Tanzania.

This year rights groups and even the country’s chief justice has called for the government to review laws that deny bail to criminal suspects for some offences.

Since President John Magufuli was elected in late 2015, Tanzania has tightened control of the media and civil society, shutting some newspapers, arresting opposition leaders and restricting political rallies.

Magufuli’s government denies restricting media freedom and cracking down on democracy and human rights.

Prominent investigative journalist Erick Kabendera was charged with similar economic crimes in August and remains in detention, while another journalist, Azory Gwanda, went missing in late 2017.

Hauwa Mustapha