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Tanzania Court Says Leader of Main Opposition Party Must Stand Trial

Tanzania's main opposition Chadema party leader Freeman Mbowe (center, in red shirt) arrives at the High Court in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Feb. 18, 2022.

A Tanzanian court has ruled the leader of the opposition Chadema party and three other defendants must stand trial on terrorism charges. The party says the allegations are politically motivated.

The decision was handed down Friday by Judge Joachim Tiganga, from the High Court’s Division of Corruption and Economic Sabotage.

Tiganga said that from the evidence, it appears the defendants have a case to answer.

Government prosecutors have charged Chadema party leader Freeman Mbowe and three former Tanzania military soldiers - Mohamed Ling’wenja, Khalfan Bwire, and Adam Kasekwa – with organizing terrorist activities.

Mbowe and his co-defendants have denied the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

Mbowe was arrested eight months ago in the port city of Mwanza where he was to address a meeting to discuss constitutional reforms.

Security was tight around the court on Friday as many Chadema supporters gathered outside and sang party songs.

Aidan Tarimo, a Dar es Salaam resident who was following the case, disagrees with the case.

"In my opinion, I think the opposition leader Mbowe and the co-accused have not been treated fairly. For many who have followed the case closely the evidence was not enough, and it brings a lot of questions," Tarimo said.

Many Chadema supporters had hoped the case would be dismissed after President Samia Hassan and Chadema’s vice-chairman, Tissu Lindu, met Wednesday in Belgium, where Lindu lives in exile.

Lindu had asked that the charges against Mbowe be dropped.