Kabendera lawyer appeals for presidential pardon

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The lawyer for a Tanzanian journalist arrested more than two months ago called on President John Magufuli to pardon him as a court postponed his case for a sixth time.

Erick Kabendera, who has written for international publications, was charged in August with leading organised crime, failing to pay taxes and money laundering.

His lawyers reject the charges and say the case is politically motivated. Rights groups also maintain the case is politically motivated.

Jebra Kambole, Kabendera’s lead counsel, told reporters on behalf of Kabendera and his family he was calling on the president to pardon him “if in his duties as a journalist, somewhere, somehow, he did something wrong to the president or government”.

“We apologise for that we would like him to consider this request,” Kambole said.

The journalist is being held at Segerea prison, a maximum-security facility outside Dar es Salaam.

The prosecutor told the court his investigations were not complete, while Kabendera’s lawyers called for the process to move forward given their client is held on charges that are not bailable.

Kabendera told the court he was receiving medical treatment. Since mid-August, he had difficulty breathing and complained of numbness in one leg, his lawyers told the court previously.

Rights groups say press freedom in Tanzania has drastically deteriorated since the election in 2015 of Magufuli.

His administration suspended newspapers, arrested opposition leaders and restricted political rallies. Government rejects the criticism.

Reporters Without Borders called for Tanzania to end a “growing crackdown on media and journalists”, after the government communications regulator fined three online television channels for failing to publish editorial policy statements in line with a 2018 law.

All three channels are critical of the president, the media rights group said in a statement.

The president said people held on charges of tax evasion, money laundering and other financial crimes should be freed if they confessed and returned what they had stolen.