Tanzanian Muslims strip to protest detention without trial

A group of Tanzanian Muslims stripped naked in an unusual protest to demand the start of their trial. FILE PHOTO | NATION  

A group of Tanzanian Muslims who have been held in prison since 2013 on terror charges stripped naked in an unusual protest to demand the start of their trial, a witness said Wednesday.

Some 60 Muslims were detained nearly five years ago following a series of deadly attacks in Arusha, a mainly Christian city in the north, but they have yet to go on trial.

A witness, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the incident occurred on Tuesday morning when the group was on its way to court for a procedural hearing.

"Of the 60 accused in the bus, 19 got out completely naked, taking everyone by surprise," the witness said.

"Security forces immediately led them to an isolation cell opposite the courtroom. We heard them shouting that they were sick of the delays in finishing the investigation so that their process can start."

They refused to get dressed

Several local media, including government daily Habari Leo, said security officers begged the group, all of them men, to get dressed.

But they refused — and the court said it would only allow those who were dressed to appear.

At the hearing, prosecutor Augustino Kombo once again told the court that the investigation had still not finished, daily Mwananchi said, with the next date set for January 30.

Another prosecutor, Maternus Marandu, who slammed the detainees' behaviour as "immoral", explained the delay by saying it was a very complex investigation which also required work abroad, the Habari Leo newspaper reported.

In March 2017, the suspects — among them preachers — threatened to boycott any future hearings and complained their families had been barred from visiting them until the start of their trial.

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