High Court suspends Gwisai community service

A High Court Judge, after an appeal, has suspended a community service sentence imposed on former MDC-T MP Munyaradzi Gwisai and five of his co-accused.

Munyaradzi Gwisai
Munyaradzi Gwisai

Last month Magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini rejected the initial appeal, which had been lodged by lawyer Alec Muchadehama on behalf of Gwisai, Antonater Choto, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Edson Chakuma, Hopewell Gumbo, and Welcome Zimuto. In the last few weeks, the six had done some community work at various schools around Harare.

On Friday, High Court Judge Justice Nicholas Matonsi ruled that the magistrate had erred when he convicted the six activists for watching video footage of last year’s uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

The judge said the appellants had a good chance of winning their case against both conviction and sentence as ‘watching or showing a video’ is a contestable matter in a criminal case.

The activists were convicted last month of conspiracy to incite public violence and were sentenced to two years in prison each, wholly suspended for five years, a fine of $500 each, and 420 hours of community service.

The group was arrested in February 2011 along with 39 other human rights activists, and accused of plotting to destabilize the government. They were initially charged with treason, which carries the death penalty, but the charges were later downgraded to inciting public violence.

An elated Gumbo told SW Radio Africa they were pleased with the outcome and onfident about the appeal against sentence and conviction.

‘With what the Judge said in court today (Friday) we remain confident that the conviction and sentence will be quashed. I still don’t believe that an individual can be sent to prison for just watching a video,’ Gumbo said. During the last appeal hearing in March the state indicated that it would appeal against the sentence given to the group as it was ‘lenient’ and that a prison sentence was more appropriate. SW Radio Africa

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