Zimbabwe's Protesting Union Leaders Freed

Harare — A Zimbabwean court has acquitted seven labour union leaders accused of participating in anti-government protests late last year.

Leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), including its president, Peter Mutasa, were on trial after police arrested and charged them with committing public violence in October.

Police accused them of allegedly participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry.

Harare Magistrate, Rumbidzai Mugwagwa, has quashed the charges, ruling that the state failed to establish that any offence was committed.

She ruled the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers who testified as witnesses during the trial had confirmed that demonstrations were legal in terms of the constitution.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights represented the union leaders.

Their acquittal comes months after another round of anti-government protests left at least 12 civilians dead.

The deaths are blamed on state security forces who have a history of a brutal crackdown on protesters.

Zimbabwe is enduring harsh economic problems that have agitated the citizenry.

The economic hardships were behind the formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) 20 years ago by the then leaders of the ZCTU.

Morgan Tsvangirai (now late), who was the ZCTU secretary general, was the MDC founding president.

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