Amnesty International on Tuesday described as an “affront to justice” and “a clear attempt to silence government critics by keeping them behind bars” the continued detention of Tanzanian human rights lawyer Tito Elia Magoti and his co-accused Theodory Giyani.
Tito Magoti, a lawyer working with the Dar es Salaam-based Legal and Human Right Centre (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”.
They were arraigned in court on Tuesday.
Amnesty said the two have been held on “unbailable charges” under the Economic and Organized Crimes Control Act and other charges under the Cybercrimes Act and Anti-Money Laundering Act since 20 December 2019 and should be released immediately and unconditionally.
“It is outrageous that the Tanzanian government continues to abuse the criminal justice system by detaining critics on unbailable offences for weeks and months on end under the guise of investigating cases. This is an outright abuse of due process of the law and a perversion of justice,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Africa.
“The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Tito Magoti and his co-accused Theodory Giyani and live up to their national and international obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil everyone’s civil and political rights.”
According to Tito Elia Magoti’s lawyer, he was arbitrarily arrested on 20 December by plain clothes police officers after tweeting his support for and his association with vocal government critics. Following public outcry, the police admitted that he had been arrested.
Tito and Theodory were first arraigned in court on 24 December 2019 and charged with money laundering, an unbailable crime in Tanzania. On 7 January 2020, the court in Dar es Salaam adjourned their case after the prosecution asked for more time to complete investigations.
In a similar case journalist Erick Kabendera was arrested on 29 July 2019. He has since appeared in court more than 12 times as the state prosecution successfully petitions for more time to complete investigations.