Gwisai to appeal against conviction

Alec Muchadehama, the lawyer for Munyaradzi Gwisai and five others convicted of conspiracy to commit public violence in violation of section 188 of the Criminal Code has presented mitigation before Magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini from 11.30am to around 1pm.

Munyaradzi Gwisai
Munyaradzi Gwisai

He indicated that all six convicted activists, upon their arrest on 19 February 2011, were severely tortured by police while in custody, and spent some 27 days in prison before being granted bail on stringent conditions. The matter has taken over a year to conclude. The convicted persons believe they committed no crime – and their Lawyer will appeal against conviction for all six once sentence is passed. Muchadehama noted that the police who tortured the six activists have not been brought to account to date.

Upon conviction, the prescribed punishment is a jail term of up to 10years or a level 12 fine of up to US$2, 000.00. Muchadehama is strongly opposed to a custodial sentence or even community service, but has conceded a fine – in the region of US$500,00 per person. Court has adjourned to 2.15pm to allow prosecution to respond and raise aggravation issues before sentencing. It is not clear whether sentence will be passed today.

This case is a direct message from a politicized and partisan justice system to civil society on their intolerance of democracy, justice and freedom. We reject that message of fear. It was encouraging that over 100 civil society leaders and activists turned up at court in support and solidarity. This political persecution of the six activists through prosecution is testimony to how compromised our judicial system has become. Contrast this persecution with the murders of over 200 MDC supporters during the 2008 elections whose murders are still at large, seemingly beyond the reach of the law.

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