Tanzania’s lawyers’ union has on Friday condemned the police for arresting its president Tundu Lissu, who doubles as the deputy president of the main opposition party, after denouncing President John Magufuli.
In a statement signed by the deputy president of the Tanganyika Lawyers Society (TLS), Godwin Ngwilimi, the group said the arrest contravenes several laws including Article 18 of the 1977 Constitution that gives the freedom to air personal views.
“That being the case, we, TLS Leadership Council, condemn and object the Police Force’s move to arrest people when they air their personal views,” the statement was quoted by local media The Citizen.
Tundu Lissu was arrested on Thursday at the Julius Nyerere Airport in Dar es Salaam as he attempted to take a plane to Rwanda for the East Africa Lawyers Society (EALS) Leadership Council.
His arrest follows a statement he made three days earlier calling for “the dictator and his government, to be isolated politically, diplomatically and economically.”
He told the media that repeated arrests of senior party members, locally and nationally, were intended to muzzle any opposition to Magufuli.
Government spokesman Hassan Abbas reacted to the comments saying “the government will not accept that someone, or a group of people, abuse the freedom of expression”.
The Magufuli-led government has assumed a no-nonsense approach towards opposition forces.
Last year, the police banned all political rallies calling them unlawful and likely to breach the peace. The president later relaxed the ban and allowed only elected officials to conduct rallies within their constituencies.