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  • Treason charges against Munyaradzi Gwisai & others - Index of articles

  • Gwisai fights for freedom
    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

    May 30, 2011

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    Outspoken social rights activist, Munyaradzi Gwisai and five colleagues facing treason charges have petitioned the High Court to relax their stringent bail conditions.

    Gwisai and the other economic justice and human rights activists are on tight bail conditions while awaiting trial on allegations of plotting to unseat the government through popular revolts similar to those witnessed in Egypt and Tunisia.

    They argue that bail conditions should be relaxed because they have demonstrated not to be a flight risk.

    Gwisai, a labour law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, is the International Socialist Organisation general-coordinator for the local chapter.

    In an application filed in the High Court last week, prominent human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama argued that his clients had religiously abided by their bail conditions since their release on bail in March.

    "The State has advised that it would be reducing the charges to lesser ones. The feared temptation of applicants to abscond from the initial charges has been greatly reduced if not totally eliminated, not that it ever existed," reads part of the activists' application filed by Muchadehama.

    High Court Judge Justice Joseph Musakwa briefly heard the application on Friday before deferring the matter to Monday to allow Edmore Nyazamba of the Attorney General's Office to file his response to the activists' application.

    Besides paying $2000 bail money, the activists have been reporting three times a week to Harare Central Police Station.

    "Applicants submit that the conditions have become burdensome and they need to carry on with their normal lives," said Muchadehama, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. "All applicants have suffered immense restrictions in their daily lives." Gwisai and 44 activists were arrested in February after police pounced on them as they watched television footage of popular uprisings that ousted long-serving dictators in Egypt and Tunisia.

    However, 39 of the activists, including HIV and AIDS campaigners, were freed by Harare Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi who ruled that prosecutors had failed to prove a case against them.

    This left Gwisai, anti-debt campaigner Hopewell Gumbo, student leader Welcome Zimuto, Antonater Choto, Tatenda Mombeyarara and Eddson Chakuma facing treason charges. Recently, Nyazamba indicated that the six activists, who spent almost a month in prison before the High Court granted them bail, will now be tried at the Harare Regional Court starting on 18 July.

    In his application, Muchadehama gave the example of Welcome Zimuto, who is a student at the Chinhoyi University of Technology, as one of the applicants who was being affected by the bail conditions.

    "It is unfair to have a university student report three times a week at the expense of his right to education," said Muchadehama. The lawyer added that given the lapse of time since they were released in March, his clients' bail conditions needed to be revised. "Applicants have demonstrated beyond doubt that they can be trusted," he said. "It is submitted that time has progressed sufficiently enough and the State case has been severely weakened to warrant a reconsideration of the bail condition."

    The arrest of the activists in February drew wide international condemnation of President Robert Mugabe's government. The denunciation worsened after the activists claimed that they had been tortured while in police cells. The activists have denied the treason charges and say they were arrested while attending a democracy and constitutionalism lecture at the ISO offices in Harare.

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