, Tanzania, Jan 29 – A top Tanzanian opposition party leader was charged Wednesday with holding political rallies without a permit, prompting fellow lawmakers to storm out of parliament in protest.
Ibrahim Lipumba, chairman of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), pleaded not guilty in a court in Dar es Salaam, a day after he and some 30 supporters were arrested.
The CUF, which is part of the ruling coalition on the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago, holds 35 seats in the 357-seat national parliament.
Police said CUF supporters had staged a demonstration marking the 14th anniversary since 21 party members were killed by police during protests on Zanzibar over the alleged rigging of the general election in 2000.
Prosecutor Joseph Maugo said Lipumba was charged with “inciting CUF supporters and other people to hold assemblies and stage a demonstration without a government permit.”
Lipumba was released on bail and ordered to appear again in court on February 25.
Tanzania is holding elections in October.
Opposition MP James Mbatia, leader of the opposition National Convention for Construction and Reform (NCCR), said the arrest of Lipumba was “unacceptable” as lawmakers marched out of parliament in the capital Dodoma.
“Lipumba was mistreated, police used excessive force including tear gas… Lipumba and many other people were beaten,” said Mbatia.
“This is not a small matter, because Lipumba is a party leader with many MPs in the House, and CUF also jointly runs the national unity government in Zanzibar. He cannot be treated that way.”