Wardens plead not guilty to beatings out of prison

Nine prison wardens stood before a magistrate's court in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Tuesday to plead not guilty to charges of assaulting and injuring dozens of people, including two journalists.

One reporter was stabbed in the buttock allegedly by the bayonet of a rifle. The other suffered a serious head injury.

The assault took place on 10 September when the prison service sent the wardens, as well as prisoners, to the Ukonga neighbourhood in the west of Dar es Salaam to evict tenants from homes which the prison service had bought two years early.

The prosecuting assistant commissioner of police, Patrick Byatao, told the court that the nine warders used guns and batons to evict the members of 10 families who were living in the homes.

The allegations have sparked condemnation from human rights groups and local media outlets. Some have called for the resignation of Principal Commissioner of Prisons Nicas Banzi as well as Minister for Home Affairs Omar Mapuri.

The day after the incident Mapuri defended the wardens saying their use of force was "reasonable".

Presiding magistrate Francis Mutungi released the nine defendants on bail until 4 October when the case is set to resume.