Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera, who has been in detention for over a month now after he was charged with economic crimes, needs urgent medical attention, the defense team told the court on Friday.
Kabendera’s lawyer, Jebra Kambole, told Kisutu Resident Magistrate Janet Mtega that his client recently developed breathing problems while in custody.
Further, Kambole noted that Kabendera, who is detained at Segerea prison, was experiencing difficulties walking.
“Nilienda kumwona usiku wa kuamkia Agosti 21, 2019 nikakuta amepooza mguu na kushindwa kutembea kwa siku mbili pamoja na kuishiwa nguvu, sisi kama mawakili na ndugu hatujui nini anachoumwa, loosely translating to, His health has been deteriorating since August 21. He has difficulty breathing and has been complaining about numbness in one of his legs, ” said Kambole.
The lawyer requested the court to issue orders directing the state to facilitate Kabendera’s medical care.
“Kwa kuwa mteja wetu hajapata vipimo ambavyo vinastahili tunaomba mahakama ielekeze jeshi la magereza mteja weu apate kupimwa katika hospitali yoyote ya serikali ikiwemo muhimbili penye vipimo vya uhakika, loosely translating to, we request the court to instruct prisons authorities to take Kabendera to a government hospital for urgent medical attention, ” he added.
The prosecution, however, stated that they were not aware of Kabendera’s condition adding that the government could have acted if it was aware of Kabendera’s situation.
The freelancer journalist, who was arrested on July 29, is facing three counts of economic crimes including assisting an organised crime racket, money laundering, and failing to pay millions of dollars in tax, all between January 2015 and July 2019.
The case was adjourned to September 12, after the prosecution stated that they were yet to complete investigations.
Defense lawyers urged the prosecutors to expedite the case and transfer it to Tanzania’s High Court subsequent hearings, where the journalist will be allowed to enter a plea.
Several states and human right groups have condemned irregular arrest, detention and indictment of Kabendera by Tanzanian authorities.
In a joint statement on August 9, the British High Commission and the US Embassy in Tanzania spoke out against the corrosion of due process in Tanzania, particularly on Kabendera’s case.
“We are particularly concerned about a recent case — the irregular handling of the arrest, detention, and indictment of investigative journalist Erick Kabendera, including the fact that he was denied access to a lawyer in the early stages of his detention, contrary to the Criminal Procedures Act.
“We urge the Government of Tanzania to guarantee due process to each of its citizens, which it has recognized as a basic human right as a signatory to multiple UN Human Rights Conventions. among them the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, ” the statement read.
A week later, Canada, citing the recent predicaments of Kabendera, also called for a fair legal process for all citizens.
“Canada echoes the UK and US in expressing concern over due process in Tanzania and particularly the case of journalist Erick Kabendera. A fair and transparent legal process for all citizens matters, ” the embassy said in a tweet.