NAIROBI (Reuters) – Britain and the United States urged Tanzania on Friday to guarantee due process of law for a journalist arrested on charges that his lawyer and rights groups called politically motivated.
Erick Kabendera was charged on Monday with money laundering, tax evasion and leading organised crime. He was arrested the previous week over what police said were issues concerning his citizenship.
Press freedom in Tanzania has deteriorated since President John Magufuli was elected in 2015, rights groups say. His administration has shut down newspapers, arrested opposition leaders and activists and restricted political rallies. The government rejects charges that its policies are authoritarian.
“The irregular handling of the arrest, detention, and indictment of investigative journalist Erick Kabendera, including the fact that he was denied access to a lawyer in the early stages of his detention, (is) contrary to the Criminal Procedures Act,” the U.S. and British said in a joint statement.
Kabendera, 39, has written for national and international publications, including The Guardian and The Times of London. He published a story last month in the regional newspaper The East African about purported internal divisions within the ruling party before a presidential election in 2020.
The questioning since his arrest indicated his arrest and prosecution are linked to his work as a journalist, Kabendera’s lawyer, Jebra Kambole, said on Monday.
The case has been adjourned until Aug. 19, when it will come up for mention. Money laundering is not a bailable offence.
Government spokesman Hassan Abbasi did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Foreign Minister Palamagamba Kabudi did not pick up calls from Reuters seeking comment.
Reporting by Omar Mohammed; additional reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala; editing by Maggie Fick, Larry King