Mbowe illegally held at Oysterbay Police Station. Lawyers speak up

AFTER four days of public speculations on the whereabouts of Tanzania’s Opposition Leader Freeman Mbowe, it has been revealed that he is held in custody at the Oysterbay Police Station in Dar es Salaam.

Already, prominent lawyers in Tanzania are filing a habeas corpus petition at the High Court today – Monday July 26, 2021 to pressure the state to bring Mbowe before the court of law – dead or alive – so that justice can be done.

But Mbowe’s party, Chadema, has resolved, after deliberations in its central committee, that following the illegal manner in which their leader was arrested and detained, he will never consent to a police statement, nor will he seek bail from either police or court. The party demands his unconditional release.

Mbowe is being held by police for more than 100 hours, against the country’s laws that require a suspect arrested by police brought to court within 48 hours.

Ten other opposition leaders and supporters arrested on the same day with Mbowe have been released on bail but he remains in policy custody illegally.

Mbowe was arrested in Mwanza last Wednesday night. Police raided his hotel room and made away with him to an unknown destination until it was discovered two days later that they had taken him to Dar es Salaam. Police were seen searching his residence at night, after which he has never been seen anywhere.

His family and party members were denied access to him even when they wanted to give him food. Speculations have been rife that Mbowe had been taken back to Mwanza. Police told the media three days ago that he would be charged with terrorism and conspiracy to murder government leaders.

The allegations have attracted criticism from local and international analysts given the political circumstances under which police arrested Mbowe.

It is understood that Mbowe was about to address a conference organised by his party to discuss constitutional reforms and that the arrest on the night preceding the conference was meant to sabotage the event.

But SAUTI KUBWA can reliably reveal that such trumped up charges against Mbowe were strategically orchestrated by the regime in its effort to silence Mbowe long before his party planned the constitutional debate. .

Police and government sources said the plot against Mbowe had been initiated by the former president – the late John Magufuli – immediately after Mbowe and fellow top party leaders were released from prison following a court ruling that had convicted them to a jail term or the payment of Tsh 350 million in fines. Angered by the ruling, the people donated and paid the fines in two days time.

The next plan to silence Mbowe was set up, using Lengai ole Sabaya, then District Commissioner for Hai in Kilimanjaro Region (Mbowe’s home constituency) to collude with Mbowe’s bodyguards in implicating him with serious criminal deeds. Mbowe was a Member of Parliament for Hai and the Leader of official Opposition in Parliament.

When the bodyguards refused to betray Mbowe, Sabaya abused his power to arrest and torture them and then had them implicated with serious criminal charges including conspiracy to commit terrorism, drug trafficking and possession of unlicensed weapons.

In a shocking turn of events, the strategy, which was supposed to come to an end following the death of President Magufuli, has been advanced by his successor, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, attempting to link Mbowe to terrorism and murder.

Following Mbowe’s arrest and detention without trial, the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) has intervened and demanded his release or trial.

Quoting the Constitution of Tanzania, TLS President Dr. Edward Hoseah said Article 21 (1) provides for the right to association and Article 13 (1) provides for all people to be equal before the law.

Dr. Hoseah, a former director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), said the arrest of Mbowe and his colleagues at midnight alleged for organizing a forum was a violation of the country’s constitution and laws.

Speaking on organizing the symposium, Dr. Hoseah has said it has never been a criminal offense under the Constitution and the laws of the land. He clarified that if there were any other allegations against him, he should have been brought before the court.

“I call on the authorities to release him because continuing to detain him is a violation of the law.

Police spokesman David Misime, declined to comment on Mbowe’s allegations, claiming that many of the questions he was asked could interfere with the evidence in the case.

Regarding the illegal midnight arrest, Misime said Tanzania has no law that says no one should be arrested at night – “whenever we are satisfied with our evidence, we will arrest anywhere.”

Chadema’s Vice Chairman, Tundu Lissu has criticized the arrests and raids conducted at Mbowe’s home saying; “Tanzanian law says searching should be done during the day.”

Meanwhile Mbowe released a strongly-worded statement from police cell, saying he would probably stay long in prison but would never betray his conscience of fighting for democracy.

“I am confined in long prison wall because the power-hungry gods of Africa think my patriotism to my country is terrorism. They are ready to cement their authority at the cost of the life of anyone,” Mbowe wrote.