Freeman Mbowe, The leader of Tanzania’s main opposition party, appeared before the country’s High Court to face terrorism charges.
The 59-year-old Chadema party chairman has been behind bars since July 21, when he was arrested along with other senior party officials in a late-night police raid hours before they held a public forum to demand constitutional reforms.
The party says the case is politically motivated, describing it as a setback to the increasingly authoritarian rule of the late President John Magufuli.
Mbowe’s lawyer argued that the Superior Court division, known as the Corruption and Economic Crimes Division, did not have the power to hear the case, reports the AFP news agency.
The trial in the country’s highest court in Dar-es-Salaam began on Tuesday under strict security measures, with the police banning most journalists from the courtroom.
The government of President Samia Suluhu Hassan, citing COVID-19 regulations and security, had warned foreign diplomats not to go to court to pursue the case without notifying the Foreign Ministry.
Representatives from the British and US embassies were present at the hearing, which was also attended by senior Chadema leaders.
In a separate case, Mr. Mbowe went to court on Monday to argue that the manner of his arrest and the fact that he was detained for five days without being charged violated his constitutional rights, says AFP.
The United States has expressed concern about the treatment of the opposition leader.