Civil society groups in Tanzania have urged the United Nations and the African Union to intervene on behalf of human rights activist Tito Magoti, who was arrested on December 20, 2019, concerned that his apprehension is government’s retaliation for his human rights work.
Magoti, 26, works for the nongovernmental Tanzanian organisation, Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC).
The organisation said he was arrested after being lured to a meeting by text messages from a friend, Theodory Giyan, who had himself been arrested the day before. As he arrived at the meeting place, four unidentified men handcuffed and blindfolded Magoti, drove him away, and held him at several different police stations.
LHRC said the police questioned Magoti about his online activism and his involvement with other rights activists and opposition members.
Both Magoti and Giyan are currently detained in Segerea Prison in Dar es Salaam pending trial.
They face charges of “economic crimes,” which under Tanzanian law are non-bailable. International human rights law requires that detention before trial is an exception, not the rule.
They are accused of leading an organized criminal racket, possessing a computer program designed to commit an offence, and money laundering.
These arrests come as Tanzania’s human rights record continues to deteriorate under President John Magufuli.
Since 2015, the government has cracked down on civil society by passing repressive laws, censoring media, and arresting government critics, including journalists and several opposition politicians.
Last year, police arrested Erick Kabendera, who had written for several international outlets critiquing Tanzanian politics.
Like Magoti, he was also charged with non-bailable offences of economic crimes, and has been in detention since last July awaiting trial. If Kabendera’s case is any indication, Magoti could also face several months in jail awaiting trial. (Source: HRW)