21 December 2012

Zimbabwe: ZimRights Official and Three Others Denied Bail

An official from the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and three other individuals dragged into the case against him, have all been denied bail and will spend the Christmas season behind bars in Harare.

ZimRights programs manager Leo Chamahwinya has remained in detention at Harare remand prison since last week, after being arrested during a police raid on the group's offices. He was taken into custody on allegations that he was involved in 'illegal voter registration'. He was then charged with 'conspiracy to commit fraud'.

Three other individuals have also been charged in the same case, which human rights lawyer Trust Maanda said was a deliberate ploy to try and implicate Chamahwinya. Maanda told SW Radio Africa that none of the accused know anything about the allegations made by the state and Chamahwinya and the others did not even know each other.

The other three individuals are Dorcas Shereni, Tanaka Chinaka and Farai Bhani who are all being accused of forgery, fraud and publishing 'false statements'. The state has alleged that the group forged voter registration certificates "to tarnish the name of the Registrar General."

Maanda said on Friday that their bail application was dismissed because the judge insists the four accused are facing "serious charges."

"The judge also ruled that they are likely to abscond or could even interfere in the ongoing investigation. This is despite the fact that my clients know nothing about what they are being charged with," Maanda said.

He added that he is not surprised by the court's decision, saying "in Zimbabwe it is never surprising to be arrested for something you know nothing about."

An appeal against the bail dismissal will be filed at the Supreme Court next week.

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