The release of Tanzania’s opposition leader Freeman Mbowe is a step in the right direction which must be followed by concrete and effective measures to ensure full respect for human rights including the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression, Amnesty International said today.
Freeman Mbowe spent eight months in detention on terrorism charges, which were dropped before his release on 4 March. Amnesty International is calling on Tanzanian authorities to immediately stop weaponizing the law to target opposition and critical voices, and to make a number of reforms including addressing the misuse of the provisions of non bailable offences under the Criminal Procedure Act to hold people in prison for unreasonable periods of time, on the grounds that further investigations are pending.
Following his release, Mbowe met with President Samia Suluhu Hassan at the State House in Dar es Salaam, where they pledged to join hands to “build the nation, through trust and mutual respect built on the foundations of justice”.
“Freeman Mbowe was arbitrarily arrested and detained on politically motivated charges, amid a crackdown targeting Tanzania’s opposition. His release brings an end to eight months of injustice and must signal the end of attempts by Tanzanian authorities to crush political opposition and peaceful dissent,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“We now call on President Hassan to honor the pledge she made last week, and ensure that the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly of everyone, including the political opposition, will be respected, protected, and promoted going forward.
“This means putting an end to the arbitrary arrest and harassment of politicians and their supporters. All those detained solely for expressing peaceful dissent and denied bail across the country must be released immediately.”
The High Court Division of Corruption and Economic Sabotage Offences ordered the release of Freeman Mbowe and three of his co-accused, Halfan Bwire Hassan, Adam Hassan Kasekwa and Mohammed Abdillahi Ling’wenya, after the Director of Public Prosecution dropped terrorism charges against all of them.
The prosecution did not explain the reason for its decision to drop the charges.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Amnesty International.