Tanzania’s opposition party Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) has moved to court seeking orders to compel the police to release Arusha City Member of Parliament Godbless Lema who was arrested on Monday, March 2, 2020.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, the party condemned Lema’s arrest saying the police have been holding the lawmaker illegally for over 48 hours contrary to the law of the land that stipulates that a suspect is supposed to be arraigned in court not later than 24 hours from the time of arrest.
According to the party, the police in Singida region have continued to hold the lawmaker illegally even after they completed their interrogation on Tuesday.
The police, Chadema says, have refused to release the MP on police bond or arraign him in court as required by the law with the area’s Regional Crime Officer (RCO) saying they are “waiting for orders from above”.
“Jeshi hilo lilimkamata Lema, kumshikilia chini ya ulinzi na kumsafirisha kutoka Arusha hadi Manyoni, mkoani Singida, Jumatatu Machi 2, mwaka huu, likatumia siku nzima ya Jumanne kumfanyia mahojiano ambayo yalikamilika jana hiyo hiyo, lakini katika hali ya kushangaza, polisi mkoani Singida kupitia kwa RCO, tangu kumalizika kwa mahojiano hayo wameshindwa kumwachilia kwa dhamana au kumfikisha mahakamani kama sheria zinavyoelekeza, badala yake wamedai wanasubiri maelekezo kutoka juu, ” the statement reads in part.
The party has now called for the immediate release of Lema further accusing the police of being used by the state to harass opposition leaders.
“Tukio kilo la kukamatwa na kushikiliwa kwa Lema kinyume cha sheria ni mwendelezo wa ukiukaji mkubwa wa taratibu za kisheria za nchi unaofanywa na Jeshi la Polisi nchini dhidi ya wananchi wasiokuwa na hatia yoyote, ikiwa ni sehemu ya kile kinachozidi kujidhihirisha kuwa ni utamaduni wa vyombo vya dola na mamlaka zingine za kiserikali kuendelea kuminya na kukanadamiza haki za Watanzania, ” said Chadema.
Tanzania’s media reports indicate that the lawmaker was arrested for allegedly sharing misleading information on his social media handles claiming that at least 14 people have been murdered in Manyoni district between August last year and February this year.
Prior to Lema’s arrest, the fierce critic of President John Pombe Magufuli, had called for the disbandment of the country’s electoral body ahead of the general elections this year.
He argued that the electoral body is compromised further claiming that the state is keen at rigging the elections.
This is not the first the MP has been arrested for criticising the state and particularly the President.
He was among three MPs, who were arrested on in August 2017, for allegedly insulting the president.
Tanzania’s main human rights group criticised the government for its “harassment” of opposition lawmakers.
The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) said the arrests amounted to a “violation of political and civic rights” in a country where multi-party politics is enshrined in the constitution.
“Being the member of a different party (than the ruling party) is not a crime, ” the lobby group said in a statement.