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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Court adjourns trial of jailed prominent Tanzanian journalist again

A Tanzanian court on Thursday adjourned the case of a prominent investigative journalist for the fourth time since he was arraigned more than a month ago, in a case that rights groups and Western government call politically motivated.

Erick Kabendera, who has written for national and international publications including Britain’s Guardian and Times, was arrested at his home in Dar es Salaam on July 29.

Police said he had been detained over issues concerning his citizenship, but on Aug. 5 he was charged with leading organized crime, failing to pay taxes and money laundering.

The journalist limped slowly into Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam on Thursday morning and told the court: “My leg is numb, I have been experiencing severe pain in the leg, and chest pains.”

A prison doctor examined Kabendera last week, and he is due to have another medical examination on Friday, he told the court. His lawyers asked the court to allow him to go to a government hospital for treatment.

Magistrate Augustine Rwizile adjourned the case until Sept. 18 and said that he would rule next week on the hospital request after receiving an update on Kabendera’s medical condition from the prison doctor.

The journalist is being held at the Segerea prison, a maximum security facility on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. Most of Tanzania’s prisons are overcrowded, resulting in poor conditions for inmates, rights groups say.

Rights groups say press freedom in Tanzania has drastically deteriorated since the election in 2015 of President John Magufuli, whose administration has suspended some newspapers, arrested opposition leaders and restricted political rallies. The government has rejected the criticism.

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