Kabendera lawyers demand police finish probe


Lawyers representing a prominent Tanzanian journalist demanded authorities who charged him with financial crimes conclude investigations and release him if they lack evidence.

A Tanzanian court postponed the hearing against Erick Kabendera for the fifth time since his arrest in July in a case right groups and his lawyers say is politically motivated.

Kabendera, who writes for British newspapers, including The Times and The Guardian, was charged with leading organised crime, failing to pay taxes and money laundering.

He has been in jail since his arrest on July 29 as money laundering charges are not a bailable offence in Tanzania.

“It has been two months since our client was arrested and he hasn’t been allowed to enter a plea because police have not concluded investigations,” Jebra Kambole, Kabendera’s lead counsel, told Reuters.

“We don’t know if he has a case to answer or not.”

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

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

Authorities at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam said they needed more time to complete investigations. The judge postponed the case until October 1.

Kabendera told the court on September 12 his health was deteriorating.

He was limping on Wednesday, a video clip on the Twitter feed of online news platform Watetezi TV showed and said he was examined by doctors at a local hospital.

“They did x-rays and early test results showed I have back problems,” he was quoted as saying adding results from additional tests may be ready by the end of the week.

Medical personnel told him he has a dislocated disc, Kambole said.

Kabendera is at the Segerea prison, a maximum security facility on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.