Gwisai was on Monday found guilty of ‘conspiracy to incite public violence with a view to overthrowing the unity government.’ He was convicted together with Antoinette Choto, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Edson Chakuma, Hopewell Gumbo and Welcome Zimuto. They now all face the prescribed maximum jail term.
The group was arrested in February last year, together with 39 other social and human rights activists. Police claimed then that the group was plotting to destabilise the government because they watched video footage of the Egypt uprising. When they were initially arrested police accused the group of treason, but downgraded the charges to inciting public violence.
Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama strongly opposed any custodial sentence or community service. He however conceded to a fine, which would be about US$500 per person. He told the court he will appeal against conviction for all six, once sentence is passed.
The lawyer told the magistrate his clients did not commit any crime and had been severely tortured by police after their arrest on 19th February 2011. The police officers who tortured the six activists have not been brought to account.
The activists spent 27 days in prison before being granted bail, on stringent conditions.
Dewa Mavhinga, acting director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said the case is a direct message from a politicized and partisan justice system to civil society about their intolerance for 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 murderers are still at large, seemingly beyond the reach of the law,’ Mavhinga said. SW Radio AfricaPost published in: News