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Violence, recrimination and arrests after policeman's death in Glen View - Index of articles
Mtetwa is now free
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
November 26, 2013
In a week that
shall always be remembered as consequential for the vindication
of Zimbabwean human rights defenders and civil society organisations,
on 26 November, Harare Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa delivered a
verdict of not guilty in the Beatrice Mtetwa trial where charges
of contravening Section 184 (1) (g) of the Criminal
Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The Prosecution had alleged
that Mtetwa, a fiery and prominent human rights lawyer, had defeated
or obstructed the course of justice. She was arrested on 17 March
2013 and had been defending the matter in court since 10 June 2013.
According to the Forum's
Court Report, The Magistrate gave reasons for her judgment saying
that Mtetwa had done nothing to interfere with the investigations
the police were conducting. She cited that the police testimony
was contradictory and it did nothing to put the Mtetwa to her defence.
The inspection in loco
conducted at the premises where the arrest was effected also served
to cast the State’s case in doubt and bad light as it was
established that there was no way Mtetwa could have interfered with
what was going on in an area of the house where she could not see
what was happening; whilst guarded and in handcuffs in a vehicle
outside the premises.
The Magistrate castigated
the police for presenting contradictory testaments when they are
professionals whose work relies on observation. She also made it
clear that it is not an offence to take photographs and in any case
after forensic examination, Mtetwa’s phone was found without
any evidence that photographs of the scene had been taken. The Magistrate
found that there is no evidence that Mtetwa stopped or interfered
with the search and returned a verdict of not guilty.
In addition to the Mtetwa
case, on 22 November the same Magistrates Court acquitted Abel Chikomo,
the Forum's Director on charges of running an 'illegal' organisation.
The details of the case and our analysis can be accessed here.
Both the Mtetwa
and Chikomo cases are reminiscent of the infamous
Glen View 29 case, in which Justice Bhunu chided police officers
for their unprofessional conduct in arresting human rights campaigner
Cynthia Manjoro and MDC-T youth assembly president Solomon Madzore
and other activists as they did not have credible evidence linking
them to the commission of the offence. In that case the judge said
the police had arrested Manjoro as an inducement for her boyfriend
to surrender himself to the police in connection with the commission
of the offence.The Judge made these remarks on 19 September when
he passed a not guilty verdict on 21 of the Glen View 29 activists
who include Cynthia Manjoro, Solomon Madzore, Stanford Maengahama,
Given this pattern where
the police arrest human rights defenders and the judiciary takes
a different stance, albeit, very late, could this be the beginning
of a new era in the Zimbabwean Judiciary? The jury is still out
on this. There is more to be said about Zimbabwe's justice delivery
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Human Rights NGO Forum fact
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