The leader of Tanzania’s main opposition party Freeman Mbowe has appeared in the country’s High Court to face terrorism charges.
The 59-year-old chairman of the Chadema party has been behind bars since July 21 when he was arrested along with other senior party officials in a night-time police raid just hours before they were to hold a public forum to demand constitutional reforms.
The party says the case is politically motivated, describing it as a throwback to the increasingly authoritarian rule of the late President John Magufuli.
Mr Mbowe’s lawyer argued that the division of the High Court, known as the Corruption and Economic Crimes Division, did not have the power to hear the case, the AFP news agency reports.
The trial at the country’s high court in Dar-es-Salaam opened on Tuesday under tight security, with most journalists banned from the courtroom by police.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s government, citing COVID-19 regulations and security, had warned foreign diplomats against turning up to the court to follow the case without notifying the foreign ministry.
Representatives from the British and US embassies were present at the hearing, which was also attended by Chadema’s senior leaders.
In a separate case, Mr Mbowe went to court on Monday to argue that the manner of his arrest and the fact that he was held for five days without being charged, violated his constitutional rights, AFP says.
The United States has expressed concern about the treatment of the opposition leader.