Tanzania journalist Erick Kabendera freed after seven months

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By BBC Africa

Detained Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera has been freed seven months after he was arrested.

He had been charged with money laundering, tax evasion and leading organised crime.

Mr Kabendera's release comes after he entered into a plea-bargain agreement with the prosecution.

His detention was seen as an example of rising repression against the press and critics of Tanzania's President John Magufuli who came into office in 2015.

Rights group Amnesty International celebrated Mr Kabendera's release but added that there had been "no justice" for him.

"Tanzania must publicly commit to ensuring that everyone can freely exercise all their human rights and stop the politically motivated persecution of dissidents and journalists like Erick Kabendera," a statement from the organisation said.

 

Shortly after Mr Kabendera was arrested last July the US and UK embassies in Tanzania said they were "concerned about the steady erosion of due process in Tanzania, as evidenced by the ever more frequent resorting to lengthy pre-trial detentions and shifting charges by its justice system.

The authorities had initially said the investigative journalist was arrested over a question about his citizenship but that investigation was dropped and the financial crimes charges were brought in.

 

His case was also postponed multiple times with the state prosecution saying they were still investigating the case.

They also denied him a leave request last December to attend his mother's funeral. She had weeks before pleaded in an emotional video for his release.

Mr Kabendera's plea bargain was agreed on Monday at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court in the main city, Dar es Salaam.

On the tax evasion charge, he agreed to pay $75,000 (£58,000) within six months. On the money laundering charge, he has already paid a fine of $43,000.

He also had to pay $108 for his immediate release.

 

"I have gone through difficult times and finally I am free. I did not expect this but I am grateful for all the support," Mr Kabendera said after his release.

The journalist, who has a reputation for holding the authorities to account in his articles, has written for several British publications, including The Independent, The Guardian and The Times, as well as for newspapers in Tanzania and the wider region.

 

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