State postpones VOP trial – AGAIN

HARARE - In what their lawyer described as a shocking move, the trial of directors and staff of the independent radio station Voice of the People (VOP) has been postponed again, this time until September, because the prosecution failed to produce witnesses.
The trial of seven directors, the stati

on’s Executive Director John Masuku, and three journalists on charges of broadcasting without a state licence was due to start June 15 at Harare Magistrate’s Court. Prosecutors first said they would be ready in January and then in March. The hearing is now postponed to September 25.
Prosecutors applied for the postponement on grounds that a key witness, a Mr. Muganyura of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) was in Switzerland. When lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, for VOP, protested, it turned out that the State had not subpoenaed any other witnesses.
Mtetwa told journalists that the prejudice and inconvenience of the postponement amounted to “persecution” of human rights activists in Zimbabwe.
VOP directors David Masunda, Nhlanhla Ngwenya, Lawrence Chibwe, Millie Phiri, Arnold Tsunga, Isabella Matambanadzo, Masuku and journalists Maria Nyanyiwa, Nyasha Bosha and Kundai Mugwanda, are accused of producing programmes beamed back to Zimbabwe via the Netherlands and Madagascar.
Police raided the VOP office at Beverley Court, Harare, in December, and held the journalists without charge for four nights. The offices were bombed last year. At a ceremony in London earlier this month, VOP was named winner of the One World Special Award for its outstanding contribution to human rights. – Staff reporter

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