Court dismisses acquittal application by ‘video watching’ activists

A Harare court on Wednesday dismissed an acquittal application by a group of activists arrested a year ago for watching footage of the people’s revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.


The six, including former MDC-T MP Munyaradzi Gwisai, were among more than 40 people arrested last February after watching the video at an academic meeting, which was raided by police. After their initial arrest some in the group, including Gwisai, were tortured in police cells and kept in solitary confinement at Chikurubi maximum security prison in Harare for weeks.

The whole group was charged with treason and originally held for more than two weeks, but eventually 39 of the activists were released without charge. However Gwisai, Hopewell Gumbo, Antonater Choto, Welcome Zimuto, Eddson Chakuma and Tatenda Mombeyarara are still facing charges, although the treason charges have been dropped.

Instead the group is now being charged with ‘conspiracy to commit public violence’, with alternative charges including ‘inciting public violence’, ‘participating in a meeting with a view to inciting public violence’, and ‘breach of peace’.

The defence was waiting for the state to finish its case before applying for acquittal last month. But a magistrate dismissed this application on Wednesday.

One of the activists, Hopewell Gumbo, told SW Radio Africa that the Magistrate’s decision has come as a real blow, explaining that he and his co-accused, as well as their families and supporters, were all confident that things would turn out differently.

“It is a sad moment today and we are in a bit of a depression. But we remain optimistic,” Gumbo said.

The trial will continue and has been postponed until February 27, when the defence will launch its case and start cross examining witnesses.

“There is no evidence is the defence’s case which has concluded, so we will remain in high spirits,” Gumbo said. – SW Radio Africa News

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