Arusha. Police Monday arrested lawyer Peter Madeleka hours after the High Court in the city cancelled a plea bargaining he entered with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in a 2020 economic sabotage case, the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) said.
Mr Madeleka petitioned the High Court to force the government to pay him back the money – Sh2,200,000 – he paid to the government as part of the agreement to have his charges of economic sabotage dropped.
Madeleka told reporters at the court soon before he was arrested that he petitioned the court with the motion because procedures were ignored in the entire plea bargaining process. For this reason, the presiding judge cancelled the agreement, directing that the case starts afresh.
But Mr Madeleka was arrested immediately after he came out of the court’s precincts, with his lawyer, Simon Mbwambo, telling reporters that police did not inform him why they were arresting his client.
“I don’t know why arrested him,” Mbwambo told reporters at the court. “They took him to the RCO [Regional Crime Officer] for questioning. Maybe it is part of the process to begin the case afresh.”
Madeleka knew that police were outside the court waiting to arrest him, which forced him to remain in the presiding judge’s office for almost thirty minutes as he was trying to prevent being arrested.
Police declined to tell reporters at the court why they arrested Mr Madeleka, who has been very critical of the country’s criminal justice system, complaining that it is designed to harm people instead of helping them.
The arrest of Madeleka also comes at a time when the lawyer has been one of the people who have been very critical of the intergovernmental agreement between Tanzania and Dubai regarding the operations of the Dar es Salaam port.
Mr Madeleka has been calling the deal unconstitutional, which involves an agreement between the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) and DP World, an Emirati multinational logistics company based in Dubai, calling for its revocation.
“Anyone who will tell you that this thing here is an agreement, call them liars,” Madeleka told a press conference recently, referring to the intergovernmental agreement. “This is a contract. It was the contract that the parliament approved, not an agreement.”
Madeleka’s remarks stemmed from the defence that the government has been giving the critics of the deal, saying that what has been entered between Tanzania and Dubai is just an agreement and not a binding contract.
In its statement Monday, THRDC associated Madeleka’s arrest with his criticism of the deal, urging authorities to respect people’s freedom of speech regarding the debate around the controversial issue.
“THRDC is calling on the police to respect advocates’ rights to express their opinions,” the coalition said. “We are calling for an immediate release of Madeleka.”
But the coalition also raised concerns regarding the arrest and harassment of other critics of the deal, which include popular activist with the opposition CHADEMA party Mdude Nyagali who remains in detention for with police failing to explain the reason for his arrest.
Mdude was also arrested hours after holding a press conference where he criticised the deal between Tanzania and Dubai, accusing the government of failing to protect the country’s natural resources.
“How could our government sign as bad a contract as this?” Mr Nyagali questioned. “It is either they were drunk or bribed.”
He was arrested with lawyer Boniface Mwabukusi, representing a group of Tanzanians challenging the contract in court. Mwabukusi was later released, but police continued to hold Mr Nyagali.