Tanzania Judge frees opposition leaders

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Tanzania’s High Court has released on bail two senior opposition politicians charged last year with sedition, incitement to violence and holding an illegal rally.

The chairperson of the main opposition party Chadema, Freeman Mbowe and the women’s wing treasurer, Esther Matiko had been in custody since November when their bail was cancelled for failing to show up for two hearings.

They had been arrested earlier in the year in connection with a protest march in which a student was killed by a stray bullet fired by the police.

Mr Mbowe defended himself, saying ‘‘he had missed both hearings as he had been ill. Ms Matiko said she had missed one because she was on an official mission to Burundi.”

The judge, Sam Rumanyika, ruled that their rights had been violated and ordered their immediate release.

Opposition politicians and rights groups have been calling for their release, saying ”they were political prisoners”.

President John Magufuli has been criticised for limiting political freedoms since coming to power in 2015, and has banned political rallies.

 

BBC/Emmanuel Ukoh