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Tanzanian Journalist Critical of President Magufuli Freed From Prison

Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera speaks to journalists following his release on February 24, 2020, after pleading guilty to economic crimes. - Kabendera, a reporter for local and international press outlets, was initially detained for…

A Tanzanian judge ordered the release of investigative journalist Erick Kabendera, who was jailed last year after he criticized President John Magufuli.

After he was freed Monday, Kabendera thanked Tanzanians for the support they have shown him since his arrest.

Kabendera said his mother died while he was in jail, and his relatives couldn't afford the burial, but Tanzanians donated money to make sure that his mother was buried properly.

Kabendera has written for several British newspapers, including the Guardian and the Economist. Following his arrest July 29, his lawyer, Jebra Kambole, said his client faced charges in connection with an article in the Economist, in which Kabendera said Magufuli was "bulldozing" Tanzania's freedom.

Kabendera was charged with tax evasion, money laundering, and organized crime — all non-bailable offenses.

Human rights groups and media freedom advocates called on Tanzania to release Kabendera and ease the pressure the government has put on journalists since Magufuli took office in 2015.

Under terms of a plea deal, Kabendera pleaded guilty to the tax evasion and money laundering charges, while the other charges were dropped.

He will be fined more than $100,000.

Kambole said his client has already paid a portion of the fine, while the remainder should be paid within six months.

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