Source: Global Voices
On July 29, six plainclothes policemen forcefully removed journalist Erick Kabendera from his home in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and took him into police custody. Police say Kabendera had failed to obey a summons to investigate the status of his Tanzanian citizenship.
Over the last week, police searched Kabendera’s home twice, confiscated his passport and other personal documents and interrogated his family.
By August 5, authorities switched track, charging Kabendera with money laundering, tax evasion in the amount of $75,000 United States dollars, and criminal racketeering, according to a copy of the charge sheet obtained by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Police say Kabendera committed these crimes over a four-year period beginning in 2015.
With these charges, Kabendera may face up to 15 years in prison and can not seek bail.
Citizenship targeted as tool for repression
Kabendera’s family says this is not the first time the Tanzanian government has questioned Kabendera’s citizenship. In 2013, authorities lobbed a similar charge against him but the case was later dismissed, according to The Citizen. Kabendera felt at the time that authorities called his citizenship into question as a way to silence him.
Last year, The Citizen also reported on several other cases where the government used the citizenship question as a “tool to silence critics in Tanzania.” Aidan Eyakuze, executive director of Twaweza, a civil society organization focused on citizen voices, says authorities confiscated his passport and banned him from travel while investigating Eyakuze’s citizenship status.
Two weeks prior, Twaweza had issued and released results from a survey called “Speaking truth to power? Citizens’ views on politics in Tanzania.” The Commission for Science and Technology (Costech) claimed the survey was unauthorized and threatened legal action but later dismissed the case, according to the same Citizen article.