SATURDAY August 31, 2019
By Tranquility News Correspondent, Dar es Salaam
The health of Tanzanian investigative journalist Erick Kabendera is deteriorating in prison, a court was told recently.
Kabendera has since a fortnight ago been experiencing difficulty breathing and numbness in his right leg.
He used to write for various local and international media, including The Citizen, The East African, The Guardian of UK, The Times of London and the African Argument.
Kabendera’s lawyer Jebra Kambole told Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam that his client was in dire need of medical examination and treatment.
Kambole pleaded with the court to order the Tanzania Prisons Service (TPS) to send Kabendera to a government hospital for medical check-up and treatment.
Senior State Attorney Wankyo Simon said though there was no objection on the request, the lower court was unqualified to grant orders in the case which should be heard by the Tanzania High Court.
“After all, he has neither asked for nor denied permission to seek medical attention,” said Wankyo, adding that investigation in the case was incomplete.
Resident Magistrate Janeth Mtega adjourned the case for the third time on Friday to September 12, 2019.
Kabendera was first arraigned at the court on August 5, 2019, charged with money laundering and organised crime counts, which lack bail, and a third count of tax evasion.
Six self-proclaimed plain clothes police officers, who refused to display their identity cards, stormed to Kabendera’s home aboard a Toyota Alphard sedan in evening on July 29, 2019, to arrest him.
His neighbours insisted that they would escort him to know the exact police post they were sending him, lest they were members of a group of criminals who have of late been terrorising the East African country.
The spate of unexplained kidnaps, deaths and mysterious disappearances of people Tanzania has been witnessing lately lead some analysts to link the assailants with the mainstream security system.
However, the law enforcers forcefully grabbed mobile phone handsets of Kabendera, his wife and of their nighbours, who were recording the incident, before they took him to Oyster Bay Police Station in Dar es Salaam for questioning.
Tension flared worldwide when Dar es Salaam Police Special Zone commander Lazaro Mambosasa said he was not aware of Kabendera’s arrest.
“Authorities must immediately disclose if they are holding Erick Kabendera, and for what reason, and ensure the journalist is returned safely to his family,” the Committee to Protect Journalists representative for the Sub-Saharan Africa Muthoki Mumo said.
Few days later Mambosasa admitted that the Immigration Department was holding Kabendera (speaking in the video) for questioning over his citizenship only to see him charged with different counts at the court.
The prosecution side claimed Kabendera had on different occasions between January 2015 and July 2019 assisted a network of organised criminals in earning cash illegally.
In the second count, State Attorney Faraja Nchimbi said Kabendera evaded about $165,000 worth of taxes to the Tanzania Revenue Authority.
Wankyo claimed, in turn, that Kabendera had, during the same period, illegally earned about $165,000. Kabendera could neither plead guilty nor deny the charges at the lower court.