Freeman Mbowe speaks out on charges, eight months behind bars
Tanzania opposition leader Freeman Mbowe, who was arrested over alleged terrorism links, has narrated his eight-month ordeal in remand prison.
The Chadema chairman was released last Friday after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped the charges against him and three others.
Mr Mbowe said he had expected that the case would have ended in a way that would have enabled the world to know the truth.
He said the charges brought against him came as a shock to him and his family, adding that he spent most of his eight months in jail praying to God that justice be done, and the truth revealed.
“Many people were pleading from time to time that the charges be dropped, but I wanted the case to continue until the truth was revealed. I wanted to hear what evidence my accusers would provide,” he said after he was invited to address a Sunday service at the Azania Front Cathedral in Dar es Salaam.
Mr Mbowe said despite the case drawing domestic and international attention, many people were not aware of the seriousness of the terrorism charges.
“I was accused of one of the most serious crimes one can be charged with in Tanzania, and many people just heard the word ‘terrorism’, but apparently the seriousness of the charge did not fully sink in,” he said.
“Terrorism charges carry jail sentences of anywhere between 15 and 30 years, without the option of a fine. One can easily spend the rest of their lives in prison.”
Mr Mbowe said he was astonished by the outpouring of sympathy during the eight months he spent in remand, adding that there was a time when he received up to 200 visitors daily.
This surprised even warders, who said they had never seen an inmate receive such a large number of visitors, he said.
“I’ve seen pain, I’ve seen happiness. I had time to read, to write, and, most importantly, time to reflect…I was at peace, and I was happy.”
A few hours after he was released, Mr Mbowe met with President Samia Suluhu Hassan at State House in Dar es Salaam.
President Samia and Mr Mbowe were seen in pictures released on Friday evening by the Directorate of Presidential Communications, and were said to have discussed “matters of national interest”.
Without giving details, Mr Mbowe said the two political leaders agreed to preach peace and justice.
He said many people were not at peace due to lack of justice.
“There should be justice in general elections, justice in courts, justice in the security forces, justice for the rich and the poor, justice everywhere. I am glad the President has accepted my request,” Mr Mbowe said.
On the negative publicity generated by his visit to State House, Mr Mbowe said it was the result of deep-rooted suspicion, mistrust and fear.
“There is a lot of fear in our country. Someone can’t meet with somebody else because they will be branded a traitor, but these fears are justified considering the situation the country has been through,” he said.
Mr Mbowe was set free on March 4 together with his three co-accused after the DPP withdrew terrorism charges against them.
“The Court is informed that the Director of Public Prosecution on behalf of the Republic will not further prosecute Halfan Bwire Hassan, Adam Hassan Kasekwa, Mohammed Abdillahi Ling’wenya and Freeman Aikaeli Mbowe for offences to commit terrorist acts,” reads part of the nolle prosequi notice signed by Senior State Attorney Robert Kidando.
The four faced six counts, which included conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, while Mr Mbowe faced a separate charge of financing acts of terrorism in the Economic Sabotage Case Number 16 of 2021.
Among other allegations, they were accused of plotting to blow up fuel stations and public places such as markets with the intention of making the country ungovernable.
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