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Treason Trial Riot in Tanzania

January 19, 2000

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania (AP) _ Police and political supporters of 18 men charged with treason clashed Wednesday outside the Zanzibar High Court, leaving 29 people injured, authorities said.

Reports that one of the injured civilians had died could not immediately be confirmed.

Zanzibar police said Wednesday evening that 15 civilians and 14 police were injured in the two-hour melee and 40 people were arrested. They were to appear in court Thursday.

Shops in Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town closed down, and tourists were pursued by thugs and thieves.

Several hundred members of the opposition Civic United Front had gathered outside the court Wednesday for the scheduled opening of the trial of 18 members of the group, who have been held without bail for more than two years in Kiinuamiguu maximum security prison.

Police refused them entry, saying there was not enough room, and forced them back 300 feet.

A judge postponed the opening of the trial to Jan. 27 after the prosecution asked for more time to prepare its case. Prosecutors have asked for a least half a dozen postponements to prepare, and several judges have been hearing the case, which originally was set to go to trial in January 1999.

The 18 defendants were arrested on charges they conspired to overthrow President Salmin Amour of the semi-autonomous Zanzibar region in the Indian Ocean off mainland Tanzania. Four of the suspects are members of Zanzibar’s 50-seat Parliament.

The Civic United Front claims Amour’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party rigged October 1995 elections in which the opposition officially won 24 of the parliamentary seats. Amour won 50.2 percent of the presidential vote.

The party’s deputy secretary-general, Nassor Seif Amour, was arrested with 12 others in November 1997 after telling people at a political rally to prepare for bloodshed. Five more party members were arrested in December 1997.

The president and the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party are seeking to change Zanzibar’s constitution to allow him to run for an unprecedented third term.

Zanzibar joined with mainland Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania after a bloody revolt in 1964 that ousted the sultan and Omani Arabs who ruled the island.

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