Tanzanian rights activist free after one year in jail

Tito Magoti (centre) and Theodory Giyani walk out Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in December 2019.

Photo credit: The Citizen

Dar es Salaam

Tanzanian human rights activist Tito Magoti has been freed from prison after more than a year under a plea bargain over alleged economic crimes, his lawyer announced on Tuesday.

Magoti, of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), was arrested in December 2019 in Dar es Salaam.

His case drew international attention after Amnesty slammed his ongoing detention as a bid to silence government critics.

He was charged with various economic crimes, including money laundering, possession of a computer programme designed for the purpose of committing an offence and leading organised crime.

The prosecution dropped the first two charges and kept that of organised crime against Magoti and his co-accused, a fellow member of the LHRC, Theodory Giyani.

The two paid 17 million Tanzanian shillings ($7,300 / 6,000 euros) for their release after agreeing to plead guilty.

"The two agreed to plead guilty in the plea bargaining," Kambole posted on Twitter. 

"It should be remembered that they have been in detention for more than a year pending investigations," he said.

The case was postponed 26 times before it entered into plea bargaining on Tuesday, the LHRC said.

Amnesty International called the detention "an affront to justice and a clear attempt to silence government critics by keeping them behind bars."

President John Magufuli, who won a disputed second term in October 2020 elections, has been accused of intimidating the opposition and suppressing democracy and human rights.

Last year, journalist Erick Kabendera was also released after seven months in detention. He pleaded guilty over money laundering and tax evasion charges in plea bargaining.