October 11, 2019 / 1:52 PM / a month ago

Lawyer for imprisoned Tanzanian journalist seeks plea bargain

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - The lawyer for a prominent Tanzanian journalist arrested more than two months ago told a court on Friday he is pursuing a plea bargain, in a case that has attracted international attention to what critics say is Tanzania’s tightening control of the media.

Erick Kabendera, who has written for international publications including Britain’s Guardian and the Times, was arrested on July 29 and charged the next month with leading organised crime, failing to pay taxes and money laundering.

His lawyers have rejected the charges and said the case was politically motivated.

The case has been adjourned several times. Ten days ago, the prosecutor told the court that investigations were not complete.

Kabendera is eager to get out of jail and rejoin his family, his lead counsel, Jebra Kambole, told reporters.

The journalist is being held at the Segerea prison, a maximum-security facility, on the outskirts of the capital, Dar es Salaam.

Rights groups say press freedom has worsened dramatically since the 2015 election of President John Magufuli. He has closed down newspapers, arrested opposition leaders and restricted political rallies.

The government has rejected criticism that it is muzzling the media.

Kabendera told the court that he had decided to opt for a plea bargain without being under duress.

“I want to also notify the court that the decision on this plea-bargaining agreement is mine and I have not been forced by lawyers,” he said.

Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen; Editing by Giulia Paravicini and Alex Richardson

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