The head of Tanzania‘s main opposition party went on trial on Tuesday with eight other leaders on charges of holding an illegal protest in February during which a student died.
Freeman Mbowe, leader of the Chadema party and his co-accused, which include several secretary generals and the head of the women‘s league, have been charged with holding an illicit gathering.
Mbowe is also accused of “inciting hatred” for a speech he gave during the February 16 protest in which he said President John Magufuli would not last long in his job.
During the march, a 22-year-old student who was not participating was shot dead by a stray round fired by police.
Police shot live rounds to disperse Chadema supporters who were marching to a local electoral commission office to demand accreditation to observe a by-election the following day.
Magufuli ordered a probe into the death.
However, six police officers arrested over the shooting were released in April as prosecutors argued the fault lay with the protest organisers.
Defence attorney Peter Kibatala asked the court to move the case from the regional court in the economic capital Dar es Salaam, to the High Court, which was rejected by the judge.
Magufuli, 58, took office in 2015 as a corruption-fighting “man of the people” but has been criticised for his authoritarian leadership style.
Detractors say he has clamped down on opposition and freedom of expression.
In September 2017, lawmaker Tundu Lissu, a member of Chadema, was shot several times at his home, and in February two local Chadema officials were killed by unknown gunmen, in murders described by the opposition as political assassinations.
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