DAR ES SALAAM (AFP) – A Tanzanian court yesterday dismissed terrorism charges against opposition leader Freeman Mbowe and ordered his immediate release, ending a case that his supporters had branded a politically-motivated bid to crush dissent.
The government of President Samia Suhulu Hassan had come under mounting pressure to drop the case, which raised concerns at home and abroad about the state of political and media freedoms in the East African country.
Chadema party chairman Mbowe and his three co-defendants, who were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts and funding terrorism, have been behind bars for more than seven months.
“Because the (prosecution) has submitted an intention to drop the case and the defence side has accepted it, the case is now removed from the court and I order the suspects to be released unconditionally,” said Judge Joachim Tiganga. “They should be released from
The decision triggered jubilant scenes in court, according to a video posted on Twitter by Chadema, and was welcomed by the United States (US) ambassador to Tanzania.
None of the accused were in the Dar es Salaam court for yesterday’s hearing – when the defence had been due to present its case.
Mbowe’s lawyer Peter Kibatala told AFP that said the formalities for their release concluded yesterday afternoon.
“At the moment we are savouring our huge victory, both morally and legally,” he
Mbowe was arrested in July along with a number of other senior party officials in a night-time police raid in the northwestern port city of Mwanza just hours before they were to hold a public forum to demand constitutional reforms.