10 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Bail Appeal Denied in Case Against Zimrights Official

An appeal launched against a court decision to deny bail to a detained human rights activist and three others in Harare has been denied, leaving the group locked up and facing trial.

ZimRights programs manager Leo Chamahwinya was arrested during a police raid on the group's offices in early December and 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, who do not work for ZimRights, were also arrested in December and charged in the same case. They are Dorcas Shereni, Tanaka Chinaka and Farai Bhani, and they 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."

Bail against the four was denied by a local magistrate before the Christmas season, meaning the group was forced to remain behind bars throughout the festive period.

Their lawyer, Tarisai Mutangi, told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that an appeal against this decision was then launched at the High Court, but this appeal has been denied. He said they are now waiting for further instruction from the courts, after being told to give the police time to carry out investigations.

"From day one the state never had prima face evidence against these people, especially against Leo. The link between them is so far removed and so far fetched," Mutangi said.

He added that the lawyers remain convinced that the case has "many holes in it," but until the court makes a decision, they can do nothing but wait.

Meanwhile more people involved in voter registration have faced increasing levels of intimidation by suspected CIO agents. According to Tsepiso Mpofu, from the Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe (YIDEZ), several youths in Matabeleland have reported late night visits by plain clothes police men and suspected CIO members. Some of the youths and their families are understood to have fled their homes in fear.

The authorities do not seem to understand that voter registration is not illegal. Anyone can register to vote at any time.

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