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Muchadehama acquitted on Human Rights Day
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
December 10, 2009

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) welcomes the acquittal of prominent human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama and Constance Gambara, the Clerk of High Court Judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, who had been on trial on spurious charges of contempt of court.

Muchadehama had been on trial since June 2009 for allegedly facilitating the illegal release from Chikurubi Maximum Prison of freelance photo-journalist Andrison Manyere and two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials Gandhi Mudzingwa and Kisimusi Dhlamini, who had been granted bail by High Court Judge Justice Charles Hungwe.

However his trial was marred by drama as proceedings had to be adjourned, postponed and restarted.

But on Thursday 10 December 2009, ironically on International Human Rights Day, Magistrate Fadzai Mthombeni, who presided over the trial, which resumed on Tuesday 8 December 2009 after Magistrate Chiwoniso Mutongi, who initially presided over the trial resigned in November, acquitted the human rights lawyer and Gambara at the close of the State case as the prosecutors failed to prove the essential elements of the crime.

Magistrate Mthombeni said no reasonable court can convict Muchadehama and Gambara because the State's evidence which was led in court did not spell out an offence.

The Magistrate said there was no prima facie case warranting to put the two on their defence.

Magistrate Mthombeni said there were some loopholes in the State's case as the State did not file its appeal against Justice Hungwe's order granting bail to Manyere, Mudzingwa and Dhlamini.

ZLHR feels vindicated in its belief that human rights lawyers are being unlawfully, arbitrarily and vindictively persecuted by state agents merely for carrying out their professional duties.

The acquittal of Muchadehama proves that the police continue to effect arbitrary arrests without first carrying out investigations and establishing a reasonable suspicion that crime has been committed.

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