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Tanzania arrests opposition party leader, revokes newspaper licence

Tanzanian President John Magufuli hopes to return to power in his country's elections on 28 October. (Photo: EPA / Daniel Irungu)

DAR ES SALAAM, June 23 (Reuters) - Tanzanian opposition party leader Zitto Kabwe and eight other members were arrested on Tuesday for holding an illegal assembly, the party said, accusing the government of repression ahead of October's presidential election.

Dorothy Semu, vice chair of the Wazalendo Alliance for Transparency and Change (ACT Wazalendo), one of the fastest growing opposition parties, said Kabwe and the others had been arrested in Kilwa district, southern Tanzania, as they attended an internal meeting.

“This is a perfectly legitimate activity … In a clear act of repression and attempted intimidation, the police interrupted the event and proceeded to arrest peaceful and law-abiding ACT Wazalendo members,” Semu said in a statement.

The police could not be reached for comment.

President John Magufuli, who is expected to run for a second and final five-year term, dissolved parliament last week ahead of the election.

Kabwe was found guilty a month ago of sedition and incitement after being found to have falsely alleged that around 100 people had been killed in his home region in 2018 in clashes between herders and police.

He was released without sentencing on condition that he refrain from saying or writing anything potentially seditious for one year. Kabwe had pleaded ‘not guilty’ and his lawyers said they would appeal.

The government also revoked the licence of the opposition-leaning newspaper Tanzania Daima, alleging violations of journalistic ethics and laws including spreading false information.

An official at the Department of Information said the newspaper had received 10 warnings, but he did not elaborate on the alleged breaches. He said the paper had 30 days to appeal, or could apply for a new licence.

The paper’s editor, Martin Malera, said it had been questioned for publishing a story in which a bishop urged opposition parties to demand a free electoral body, called for independent candidates to be allowed to stand, and urged the public to wear white as a sign of political protest. (Writing by Nairobi Newsroom; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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