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World News

U.N. rights chief disturbed by 'intimidation' of opposition in Tanzania

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The U.N. human rights chief said on Tuesday she was disturbed by reports of “intimidation and harassment” of the opposition in Tanzania following a disputed election that the incumbent president won with 84% of the vote.

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President John Magufuli was declared the winner of the Oct. 28 vote but the main opposition parties have alleged fraud.

The opposition called for protests against the results but the police foiled their attempts last week and arrested their leaders, before later releasing them on bail.

Police said the demonstrations were illegal and were meant to cause violence in the East African country.

Tundu Lissu, who was Magufuli’s main challenger, said on Saturday he had taken refuge at the German ambassador’s residence in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam after receiving death threats following the election. He was one of the leaders who was arrested and later freed.

On Monday, Amnesty International said that a former opposition member of parliament, Godbless Lema, had sought asylum in Kenya, to Tanzania’s north.

London-based Amnesty said that Lema, who was detained last week and released on bail, was facing risks of human rights violations in Tanzania.

“The tense situation in the country will not be defused by silencing those who challenge the outcome of the elections, but rather through a participatory dialogue,” said Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. “I urge the Tanzanian authorities to respect and facilitate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”

Bachelet asked for investigations into allegations of human rights violations before, during and after the election.

Magufuli was sworn in on Thursday for his second, five-year term, and has promised to work with his rivals.

During his first term in office, he was praised by some for investing heavily in big-impact infrastructure projects and a sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

But critics have accused his government of intolerance and a crackdown on critical voices, including the closure of some media outlets and preventing opposition rallies.

The government denies that it stifles dissent.

Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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