The head of Tanzania’s main opposition party was arrested Friday in Dar es Salaam, after twice failing to appear in court to face charges of illegal protest, a party official said.
Chadema leader Freeman Mbowe was arrested at Kisutu court alongside fellow opposition MP Esther Matiko, where they and seven others were attending a trial hearing for their participation in a February protest.
“They were immediately taken to prison. That is to say, they are no longer free defendants. The judge cancelled their release on bail,” said Chadema secretary-general Vincent Mashinji, who is also an accused in the case.
The magistrate ordered Mbowe’s detention after he failed to appear before the court twice, on November 1 and 8.
Mashinji said Mbowe had been ill on both occasions while Matiko, he said, had missed a hearing because she was “on an official mission to Burundi”.
Mbowe and his fellow defendants are being tried for their role in a protest march on February 16, during which a 22-year-old student was killed by a stray bullet fired by police.
Six policemen were arrested but were subsequently released with prosecutors saying blame lay with protest organisers, rather than security forces.